Capitol Hill Report: Action Amid Inaction

July 7, 2010

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By Mike Amery, Legislative Counsel, Federal Affairs, (202) 506-7468, mamery@aan.com

Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR)

If you are reading this, you probably know that Congress prevented Medicare physician reimbursement cuts for another six months until November 30, 2010. Of course it wasn't until the cut actually went into effect that Congress actually acted.  It isn't what the Academy would have liked, but then nobody wants to see a 21-percent cut either. You can access our web story for more information .

A CBO Score Finally?

If you have followed our efforts to include neurology in the cognitive care incentives in the health reform bill, you know that for some time we have needed a cost analysis or "score" from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).  In May, AAN President Elect Bruce Sigsbee, MD, FAAN, and I met with key staff from the House Energy and Commerce Committee (E&C) —a key committee for this issue—who promised that once SGR was completed they would put a CBO analyst on the issue. SGR is now done and staff agreed to make that request of the CBO. Last week, I also personally met with E&C Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) , who now has firsthand knowledge of the problem. 

Chairman Emeritus Dingell

We also developed another key supporter this week in Congressman John Dingell (D-MI), who met with me and a representative of the Epilepsy Foundation. Dingell, the chairman emeritus of the Energy and Commerce Committee, already had requested that very day that the CBO score our provision. He agreed to be a key leader for us in any E&C discussions that take place on health reform correction bills. Dingell is dean of the House having first been elected in 1954.  The meeting with was especially interesting because it took place in his "hideaway" office.  Hideaways are small offices in the Capitol building reserved for members of the congressional leadership and those with tenure like Dingell.

The first corrections bill probably won’t take place until after the November elections or until the next Congress convenes in 2011, but these are important steps that need to take place before we can move forward. For a complete background on this issue, see the April 2, 2010, edition of Capitol Hill Report .

Looming Elections

Congress has entered the July 4 recess and the House has already declared that it will leave town in late July for the annual August recess. Incumbents are anxious to get back home to campaign as voters give Congress historically low marks. Just one-third of the Senate is up for election, but they remain bogged down on several issues and have a Supreme Court nomination that will hit the Senate floor soon.  My question to AAN members I talk to is "Are you planning on voting to re-elect your member of Congress?"  I’ll let you know if I start hearing a trend.