Advocates Lobby to Include Neurology in Primary Care Incentives

January 5, 2010

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By Gina Shaw, Neurology Today®

The American Academy of Neurology Professional Association, AAN members, and key allied health groups have worked actively behind the scenes to promote the inclusion of neurology in health reform legislation that would include a proposed incentive program for primary care physicians.

The bills in the Senate and House of Representative both sought to promote primary care by increasing Medicare payments to physicians for certain Evaluation and Management (E/M) codes by five to 10 percent. Physicians would qualify for the higher rates only if they met the bills' definition of "primary care provider," and if their charges for E/M services are at least 60 percent (50 percent in the House version) of their total Medicare charges.

The bills originally did not include neurology. But several key members of Congress drafted amendments to add that language, thanks to the intensive advocacy efforts by AAN members, including Bruce Sigsbee, MD, FAAN, and AAN Professional Association staff—Rod Larson, chief health policy officer, and Mike Amery, legislative counsel—as well as allied patient groups.

At this time, both the House and Senate did not include neurology in the final language of the bills. But, according to Amery, who spoke to a likely conferee, it is possible neurology may be included during the reconciliation process.

"We're not in any way trying to equate neurology to primary care or define neurology as a primary care specialty," cautions Larson. "But neurologists, as a specialty, face many of the same issues as primary care and general internal medicine practitioners on assuring that there are well-trained, available providers to treat the growing demand for our care."

For a more detailed look at the behind-the-scenes work on this legislation, see the Breaking News section of Neurology Today's newly revamped website.