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Capitol Hill Report: Neither Sleet, Nor Snow...

March 10, 2014

by Michael J. Amery, Esq., Legislative Counsel

Neurology on the Hill Overcomes Winter Storm
The 12th annual Neurology on the Hill kicked off last week in a snow storm. Most arrived on time but some advocates from as far as South Carolina abandoned the airlines and jumped in their cars to make it. Cancelled flights and difficult travel conditions weren't going to deter neurologists from all over the US from descending on Washington to meet their members of Congress.

On Monday, we were safely inside for training sessions as the snow piled up outside. The federal government was closed for business but US Rep. Phil Roe, MD, (R-TN) braved the conditions to come down to our Arlington, VA, hotel to address the group. He fired up the crowd with an impassioned plea for neurologists to take to the Hill and even run for office themselves. Roe, an OB/Gyn, inspired the attendees with his comment that when he stopped delivering babies, in reality, he became a primary care provider. This went straight to the point on the Academy's push to ensure that congressional efforts that work to improve primary care also include neurology. Congressman Roe was rewarded the first standing ovation in the history of Neurology on the Hill.

The issues were clear this year. Congress needs to protect access to care for patients by permanently averting a 25-percent cut to Medicare payments looming April 1, and by including neurology in efforts to improve the practice climate for primary and cognitive care physicians. Specifically, AAN members asked members of Congress to cosponsor the SGR repeal bill (HR. 4015/S. 2000) and the bill that includes neurology in the Medicaid/Medicare parity provision of the Affordable Care Act, also known as the "Medicaid bump" (HR. 1838/S. 755).

The visit to the Hill Tuesday brought a sunny day but the coldest temperatures in the DC area in 140 years. After trudging through snow banks and slippery walks and walking the halls of Congress, when the day was done 147 AAN members from 38 states had visited more than 170 congressional offices. Not only were the feet of your fellow neurologists busy, but they were active on Twitter as well sharing their experiences and enthusiasm in pictures and words. On top of that, more than 1,000 AAN members responded to our action alert asking them to support their NOH colleagues by sending messages supporting neurology to the House and Senate.

I heard from several attendees that their senators and representatives had promised to sign on. In a couple of weeks we will have the results and I'll let you know how we did. Thanks to everyone who made it to DC and also to those back home who took the time to support the effort by flooding Capitol Hill offices with messages about the importance of neurology. Be sure to view the 2014 Neurology on the Hill photo album.


Regulatory Corner
by Daneen Grooms, MHSA, Regulatory Affairs Manager

AAN Helps Convince CMS That Antidepressants Must Retain Protected Class Status
Last Friday, the AAN voiced our strong opposition to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) regarding their proposal to eliminate antidepressants and potentially antipsychotics from Medicare Part D's protected class status. We joined the American Psychiatric Association and the Epilepsy Foundation in expressing our serious concerns with this policy. We are pleased to announce that in response to our advocacy efforts, CMS has abandoned the policy to remove antidepressants and antipsychotics from protected class status.

The AAN recognizes the importance of the physician-patient relationship and believes that it is essential that physicians be able to prescribe medications that are best for the patient, based on independent clinical judgment, and that patients are afforded access to these medications. The therapies in the six protected drug classes are not interchangeable, and patients with these conditions need access to the medication or combination of medications most effective in treating the condition based on factors unique to the individual.


Government Relations Committee and BrainPAC Executive Committee Updates
by Rod Larson, Chief Health Policy Officer

The Government Relations Committee traditionally meets the Sunday afternoon before Neurology on the Hill to discuss legislative matters and the AAN Advocacy program as a whole. Among the agenda items:

  • Brad Fitch, CEO and president of the Congressional Management Foundation, shared several ideas with the committee about building and improving relationships with elected officials.
  • Heidi Schwarz, MD, FAAN, and Vice Chair of the Practice Committee, provided an update and facilitated discussion about opportunities for collaboration between both groups. It should be noted the Practice Committee also met this same weekend.
  • Formats for the Palatucci Advocacy Leadership Forum and Neurology on the Hill were evaluated in great detail. There were also discussions about ways to leverage the 2015 Annual Meeting, which will be held in Washington, DC.
  • Mike Amery and Derek Brandt from the AAN DC office provided a federal update.

The next Government Relations Committee will be held in September in Minneapolis, MN.

The BrainPAC Executive Committee also conducted its annual business meeting later that evening. At this meeting a bipartisan candidate budget was approved which consisted of contributions to candidates for federal office. In addition, the committee discussed strategy for what remains for 2014 and brainstormed ideas for fundraising events at the 2015 AAN Annual Meeting. In the meantime, 45 attendees contributed $18,805 to the AAN's political action committee, BrainPAC, during Neurology on the Hill.

Are you on Twitter? Follow AAN Advocacy Staff at @MikeAmeryDC, @DerekBrandtDC, and @Neurologyadvoct (Tim Miller) for updates on the AAN's advocacy efforts.

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