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Capitol Hill Report: AAN Makes Telestroke Presentation to Congress

May 26, 2015

By Mike Amery, Senior Legislative Counsel, Federal Affairs

Telestroke for the 21st Century
Several years ago, I was invited by Jonathan P. Hosey, MD, FAAN, to give a grand rounds talk on advocacy at Geisinger in Danville, PA. It was a trip that impacts my ability to advocate for the AAN and for stroke patients today.

After my presentation, Dr. Hosey took me on a tour of the hospital where he showed me the telemedicine suite. I was able to witness a (HIPAA compliant) stroke consultation via video for a woman and a primary care provider in a small clinic more than an hour away.

I have recounted my experience to members of Congress and their staff across Capitol Hill and urged them to get a look at this life-saving technology back in their home districts. I told the story again last week to several dozen Hill staff as I represented the AAN at a Capitol Hill briefing with the American Heart/Stroke Association in a demonstration that brought telemedicine to life in the Capitol.

My job at the briefing was to introduce a video of Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) that I hope you will view. Sen. Kirk suffered a severe stroke in early 2012 and has made a comeback to Capitol Hill. In the video he discusses how he benefited from receiving tPA and how legislation he will introduce will expand access to telemedicine for more victims of stroke. Recruiting additional cosponsors of this legislation will be a priority for the AAN.

Telemedicine has been on the list of issues in the discussion over legislation known as 21st Century Cures, a bipartisan effort put together by members of the House Energy & Commerce (E&C) Committee over the last year. The legislation has a goal of helping to modernize and personalize health care, encourage greater innovation, support research, and streamline the system to deliver better, faster cures to more patients. The 51-member E&C Committee unanimously approved the 21st Century Cures Act last week.

Credit goes to E&C Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and his colleague Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO), who received significant input from stakeholders across many interests and substantially altered the legislation for the better. The AAN commented on many topics including telemedicine, and I personally talked with Chairman Upton about the AAN's interests several times. 

The 21st Century Cures Act will likely be the main vehicle for health improvement legislation in this Congress, including the potential for significant increases to the NIH budget. Look for more Capitol Hill Report articles soon on 21st Century Cures and its impact on telemedicine, NIH funding, and many other health issues.    

CMS Open Payments Update
May 20 was the deadline for physicians and teaching hospitals to review and dispute the data submitted by manufacturers and group purchasing organizations before it is included in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' (CMS) Open Payments data. Payments that are disputed but not resolved within 15 days after the review period will be made public on June 30. Providers can continue to register disputes until the end of the year, but resolutions will not be publicly displayed until the next reporting cycle.

The AAN joined other specialty societies on May 20 in a meeting with CMS staff members in charge of the Open Payments system. CMS requested the meeting to encourage an open and honest discussion about the Open Payments Review and Dispute system module. CMS also accepted suggestions for future system improvements. The AAN shared members' concerns and requested more transparency and an improved user interface. We will continue to press CMS for changes to the system that take into consideration the burdens faced by physicians and teaching hospitals.

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