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Capitol Hill Report: This Is What We Will Fight for in Washington, DC

February 8, 2016

By Mike Amery, Esq., Senior Legislative Counsel, Federal Affairs

Neurology on the Hill Advocacy Issues Determined
As the Washington, DC, area got pounded with 30 inches of snow, I was in sunny Florida with members of the AAN's Government Relations Committee (GRC). The GRC, led by chair Nick Johnson, MD, of Utah, walked through many of the issues that Congress may consider for 2016, with the goal of picking three top priorities for Neurology on the Hill (NOH), which is March 1.

There are many issues that 210 AAN advocates could bring to the Hill. The most important consideration for the 17 members of the GRC for an event like NOH is to pick issues that are important to a wide range of AAN members, are as neurology-specific if possible, and have a chance for congressional action. 

And the top priorities are…

  • The Furthering Access to Stroke Telemedicine (FAST) Act (HR 2799/ S 1465) - For several months, Capitol Hill Report has tracked the progress of the FAST Act, which will make suburban and urban hospitals eligible to receive reimbursements as originating sites for telestroke consultations under Medicare. AAN NOH attendees will be joined by 20 stroke patients representing key congressional districts. Their partnership on this issue should help encourage congressional leadership to advance the FAST Act to improve the lives of stroke victims and save Medicare money.
  • The BRAIN Initiative (NIH Appropriations) - The Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies Initiative is an NIH program aimed at revolutionizing our understanding of the human brain. In 2015, AAN NOH advocates were tremendously successful securing an $85 million funding increase for FY 2016, resulting in $150 million total for the year. NOH 2016 will focus on achieving $300 million in funding for 2017, which is the ideal amount according to the program's strategic plan.
  • Meaningful Use - The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) continues to move forward with standards for “meaningful use” (MU) of electronic health records. By all reports, MU is not meaningful at all and represents one in a long list of regulatory burdens that lead to physician burnout. MU will be the basis for AAN members to describe these burdens and how current policies do not improve patient care.

Virginia Neurology Society Hears from Neurologist-Lawmaker 
Although I was in Florida for the East Coast “Snowzilla,” I did get to see the remnants when I returned to DC and headed down to southwest Virginia to attend the Virginia Neurology Society (VNS) meeting. The VNS 44th annual meeting celebrated record attendance and also had a strong focus on politics and policy.

The keynote lecture was provided by AAN member neurologist and Virginia State Delegate John O'Bannon, MD. O'Bannon, who has served in the Virginia House since 2001, talked about the importance of neurologists participating in the political process and running for office. “So many of the key decisions on health care are made behind closed doors in state houses across America,” said O'Bannon. “We need physicians helping to make those decision. We need to step up and run.”


CMS Accepting Hardship Exemption for All Concerned Eligible Professionals 
By Elizabeth Bradshaw, Program Manager, Medical Economics and Daniel Spirn, Regulatory Counsel

After AAN regulatory staff urged the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to issue clarification, CMS stated that that it will broadly accept hardship exemptions due to the delayed publication of the modifications to Meaningful Use. AAN members who are concerned about receiving the 2017 Meaningful Use penalty, based on the 2015 reporting year, should apply for a hardship exemption. Additionally, if a member applies for the hardship exemption, but qualifies to receive an incentive payment in 2017, CMS has stated it will override the hardship exception and award the incentive payment. Hardship applications must be received by CMS by 11:59 p.m. ET on March 15, 2016. Stay informed on additional changes to the Meaningful Use Program by visiting AAN.com.

Odds & Ends
Last December, the Senate Finance Committee's Bipartisan Chronic Care Working Group issued a policy options document with ideas under consideration to improve care for Medicare beneficiaries with multiple chronic conditions. Read the AAN's comments on this proposal.

Upcoming State Neurosociety Meetings
Below are the upcoming state neurosociety meetings. Contact Grant Niver with any questions. 

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