AAN Efforts Recognized at White House Concussion Summit

June 9, 2014

By Rod Larson, AAN Chief Health Policy Officer

AAN Efforts Recognized at White House Concussion Summit
The AAN was well represented at the White House on Thursday, May 29, for a Healthy Kids and Safe Sports Concussion Summit. The event was held in the East Room, a very impressive venue to say the least. The Summit was to build awareness on the concussion issue and announce several initiatives to conduct further research, promote ways to diagnose and treat concussions, and to promote ways to make sports participation safer for young people.

President Obama opened the meeting with remarks about the importance of participation in sporting activity. However, the need remains to do more to make sure parents and athletes are aware of what a concussion is and to seek treatment and avoid long term damage to the brain. A panel discussion followed, moderated by Pam Oliver of FOX Sports, included former professional athletes who suffered concussions, an Army general who spoke about programs in place for those who suffer traumatic brain injuries (TBI) in military conflict, and experts who are researching and identifying concussion injuries. 

Along with myself, AAN members in attendance included Christopher Giza, MD, and Jeffrey Kutcher, MD, both concussion experts and lead authors of the recently released AAN clinical practice guideline on sports concussion. Ben Utecht, a former NFL football player who suffered multiple concussions and ultimately had to give up his professional sports career due to his injury, attended as a guest of the AAN with the AAN. I also was pleased to see Jack Tsao, MD, PhD, a member of the AAN Practice Committee, at the event representing the military branch and his extensive work on TBI. 

Each organization at the event was asked to submit current and planned initiatives on this topic and we were very pleased that the White House press release included this statement: “The American Academy of Neurology will host its first multidisciplinary Sports Concussion Conference this summer and continue to support a national public education campaign to increase awareness of its clinical guidelines on sports concussions.”

The Sports Concussion Conference will be held in Chicago in July and there is still time to register. We also urge you to take advantage of the AAN sports concussion “toolkit” that includes great information and material on sports concussion. 

Congressional Letters Question CMS Transparency
by Mike Amery, Esq., AAN Legislative Counsel

Everyone knows the story about the decision by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) in late 2012 to drastically cut payments for nerve conduction and EMG studies without any notice. In the list of “misery loves company,” it is small consolation to know that neurology isn't the only specialty that has been affected so negatively by CMS in this exact way.

Before neurology it was cardiology, and this year it's gastroenterology that has run into the CMS buzz saw that leaves physicians without opportunity to challenge and little time to prepare for changes that significantly impact their practice and patient access to care.  

Since CMS handed down the NCS/EMG cuts, the AAN has pushed Congress to demand increased transparency, fairness, and accuracy in the Medicare reimbursement rate-setting process. A letter signed by 47 members of the US House of Representatives was recently sent to CMS calling for a fair and open process in setting reimbursement rates. Last week, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) sent a request to her Senate colleagues asking each to sign a similar letter. 

The House letter to CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner reads: 

“We are aware that significant changes are being made to physician Medicare payments without the opportunity for stakeholders to express concerns regarding the methodology or assumptions being made by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) as part of the proposed rulemaking process. We believe that current processes are unfair and deeply impact small-business operations and patient care.”

The US House letter to CMS was signed by: 

Rep. Dan Benishek, MDRep. Tim GriffinRep. Patrick Meehan
Rep. Ami Bera, MDRep. Michelle Lujan GrishamRep. Tim Murphy
Rep. Gus BilirakisRep. Brett GuthrieRep. Richard Neal
Rep. Diane BlackRep. Andy Harris, MDRep. Alan Nunnelee
Rep. Marsha BlackburnRep. Joe Heck, DORep. Pete Olson
Rep. Charles Boustany, MDRep. Bill JohnsonRep. Tom Price, MD
Rep. Vern BuchananRep. Adam KinzingerRep. Phil Roe, MD
Rep. Larry Bucshon, MDRep. Doug LaMalfaRep. Raul Ruiz, MD
Rep. Mike Burgess, MDRep. Leonard LanceRep. Aaron Schock
Rep. Steve ChabotRep. Tom LathamRep. Jan Schakowsky
Rep. Bill Cassidy, MDRep. Stephen LynchRep. Steve Stivers
Rep. Chris CollinsRep. Dan MaffeiRep. Mark Takano
Rep. John Fleming, MDRep. Kenny MarchantRep. Mike Thompson
Rep. Randy ForbesRep. Jim MathesonRep. Ed Whitfield
Rep. Phil Gingrey, MDRep. James McGovernRep. Joe Wilson
Rep. Paul GosarRep. Patrick McHenry 

Back in 2012, the AAN generated letters of protest from the House and Senate as well as more than 5,000 contacts to CMS from AAN members and patients. It is good to see our medical specialty colleagues join us in this effort to keep up the pressure on CMS to promote fairness in the Medicare physician payment system.

Odds and Ends
by Tim Miller, AAN Sr. Program Manager, Communications and State Advocacy

  • The AAN House of Delegates Annual Meeting will be June 7 to 11 in Chicago. The AAN's delegation will work to refine proposals on telemedicine, transparency of private insurer drug formularies, sports concussion, and other timely policy issues.
  • Fifteen US senators co-signed a letter asking CMS to reconsider their determination of non-coverage of oxygen for cluster headache. This was the primary message during Headache on the Hill 2014.
  • The House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee recently approved a measure to continue major federal funding of autism research for another five years. The bill would provide $260 million annually by reauthorizing the 2006 Combating Autism Act, which has provided more than $1.7 billion for NIH research, prevalence monitoring by the Centers for Disease Control and professional training. 


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