December 12, 2016

By Mike Amery, Esq., Senior Legislative Counsel

Congress Passes 21st Century Cures Act Supported by the AAN

Congress came back to Washington and had a significant accomplishment over the last two weeks - passage of the 21st Century Cures Act legislation aimed at speeding up the approval of new therapies and making new investments in medical research. The post-election, “lame duck” session kicked off with a 392-26 vote in the House followed shortly after by a 94-5 vote in the Senate.

The AAN worked on several of issues that are contained in the final package including a $4.8 billion increase in funding over 10 years for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), of which $1.51 billion will go towards the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative (subject to annual appropriations). Strong funding for the BRAIN Initiative was one of the top priorities at the AAN's Neurology on the Hill in both 2015 and 2016. The package also contains $1 billion to address the opioid abuse and addiction epidemic.

Another AAN priority included in the 21st Century Cures Act is the Advancing Research for Neurological Diseases Act, which authorizes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to create a registry to improve the collection of information on the incidence and prevalence of neurologic diseases and conditions. The AAN has long advocated for the enactment of this provision in collaboration with neurologic patient stakeholders such as the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

Notably, the legislation also contains a commitment to reduce EHR documentation burden, limit data exchange blocking, and improve EHR interoperability, which aligns with the AAN's broad goal of reducing the administrative burdens on neurologic practices.

This is a huge accomplishment for House Energy & Commerce (E&C) Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and his Democratic colleague Diana DeGette (D-CO) who pushed for an agreement and rallied support for 21st Century Cures every day of the 114th Congress. Upton has reached his term limit as E&C chair and leaves on a very high note with the completion of this signature piece of legislation. Upton will become the committee's chairman emeritus at the beginning of the 115th Congress in January when Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) takes over as the chair.

BrainPAC Makes Its Mark on Federal Elections

The AAN's BrainPAC is the only political action committee in Washington dedicated to neurology. BrainPAC concluded another successful election cycle, contributing $600,000 to candidates running for federal congressional office in 2016. 

Contributions were made to 125 candidates up for election this year, including several non-incumbents. In the end, 92 percent of candidates supported by BrainPAC won their elections. BrainPAC is bipartisan with roughly 50 percent of funds going to each side of the political aisle.

Fall State Neurosociety Meetings Recap

By Grant Niver, Program Manager, State Affairs 

This fall, 11 state neurologic societies throughout the country held meetings to provide educational and networking opportunities for their members. Hot topics were the business of medicine, the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA), as well as disease-specific treatment updates. Grassroots advocacy was at work at the Pennsylvania Neurological Society annual meeting in October, when Rep. Charlie Dent (D-PA) made an appearance. The visit was facilitated by Amtul Farheen, MD, FAAN, an attendee of 2016 Neurology on the Hill. Shortly after his visit, Rep. Dent signed onto the FAST Act - a true display of advocacy to action!

There are over 20 neurosocieties across the country that meet on an annual basis. AAN member involvement with state societies has many benefits, including preventing physician burnout, according to some participants. To see if there is a neurosociety in your state and to get involved, visit the AAN's state neurosociety web page.

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