Capitol Hill Report: AAN Hosts Powerful Committee Chair

May 12, 2014

By Mike Amery, Esq, AAN Legislative Counsel

AAN Hosts Powerful Committee Chair  
During the first years of the Senate, there were no permanent committees as members worked through temporary committees that met as needed and disbanded at the conclusion of the issue being considered. Problems arose due to the lack of continuity which led the Senate to create the Finance Committee in 1814. 

Many more committees have been created since, but a seat on the Finance Committee has always been recognized as a key position of influence on the most important issues facing America, including most of those that impact the practice of medicine by US physicians.

Last week, the AAN had the honor of hosting a medical specialty dinner for Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR), who recently took over leadership of the committee. We had the good fortune of having AAN Medical Economics and Management Committee member Constantine Moschonas, MD, of Arizona in town to attend. 

The first thing that Wyden told the group is that he is committed to passing an SGR elimination bill this year. He believes there are 60 votes in the Senate to pass a bill that would use funds designated for overseas military contingency operations (OCO) to offset the cost of the $180 billion policy agreed upon by Democrats and Republicans earlier this year. 

Although there is sure to be opposition in the House to using OCO funds, the hope is that Congress will reconvene after the November elections in a lame duck session that allows those on the way out and those just re-elected to pass the bill and eliminate the SGR for good. 

With the power the Finance Committee has, it was great to hear the new chairman so committed to ending the SGR and ensuring that patients have access to physicians they count on. It was also a unique opportunity to continue the AAN’s relationship with Wyden, especially with his new position as committee chairman.

Dr. Moschonas Meets the Senate   
Representatives from more than 20 specialties attended the Wyden event and Moschonas opened with a great introduction of the senator.  But Wyden wasn’t the only senator Moschonas met on his two-day tour of Capitol Hill. 

In addition to scheduled visits to his Arizona congressional offices, Moschonas also had the opportunity to talk about how some of the Affordable Care Act’s provisions are impacting neurology and his Scottsdale-based practice with Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who is the sponsor of the AAN’s effort to add neurology to the Medicaid bump, as well as Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) (link to pictures).

Annual Meeting Successes
The AAN Annual Meeting was a busy and successful week for our advocacy team.

From a congressional advocacy perspective, the Annual Meeting was more successful than ever. US Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA), a leader in neuroscience research efforts, spoke to attendees of the Brain Health Fair and US Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), another member of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, addressed the meet and greet held by the AAN Government Relations Committee.

I really enjoyed the opportunity to speak with so many of you who said you appreciated the updates from Capitol Hill Report. I spent most of my time at the BrainPAC booth. For those of you keeping score, 325 AAN members contributed a total of $80,000 to BrainPAC throughout the meeting.

Regulatory Corner
By Daneen Grooms, MHSA, Regulatory Affairs Manager 

Verify Your Information Accuracy: Sunshine Act Physician Registration Opens June 1 
As you know, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) now requires pharmaceutical companies and device manufacturers to track and report to CMS payments and gifts of $10 or more given to physicians. In addition, these companies also have to report physicians' ownership or investments in these organizations. On June 1, you will be able to register in the CMS Enterprise Portal so that you can review the accuracy of the information submitted by these companies before it is released to the public. Although registration is voluntary, the AAN strongly encourages you to do this if you want to be able to review and dispute any of the data reported about you. Registration will be conducted in two phases for this Open Payments reporting year: 

  • Phase 1 (begins June 1) includes user registration in the CMS Enterprise Portal. 
  • Phase 2 (begins in July) includes physician registration in the Open Payments system, and allows you to review and dispute data submitted by industry prior to public posting of the data. Note: Any data that are disputed, if not corrected by industry, will still be made public but will be marked as disputed. Learn more about the review and dispute process here.

In the coming weeks, CMS will provide additional guidance about how to complete the CMS registration process, and when Phase 2 registration and the review and dispute process will begin for physicians. You can sign up to receive notification emails from CMS.

Visit the AAN’s Physician Payment Sunshine Act web page to learn more about the law and for a list of FAQs. You can learn more about Open Payments requirements by reviewing the CMS Program Overview for Physicians. Continuing education materials relating to Open Payments are available on the Physicians web page. CMS has also developed a brochure about the program to be shared with patients.

The Open Payments Mobile for Physicians app is available to help physicians track payments and other transfers of value they receive from applicable manufacturers and applicable GPOs throughout the year. The app can also be used by physicians at teaching hospitals. The app is voluntary and free for use, and can be downloaded at the Google Play app store or iOSApple app store. At either store, search for “Open Payments."

Odd and Ends 
By Tim Miller, Sr. Program Manager, Communications and State Advocacy

After heavy push back from the physician community in California, including the AAN, SB 1215, which would have prohibited physicians from providing advanced imaging, radiation therapy, and physical therapy in their own offices as part of a group practice, was defeated in a Senate Committee, effectively killing the possibility of any legislation moving forward this year. The AAN would like to thank members in California who responded to the AAN’s call to action and contacted their local legislators asking them to oppose this measure.

Are you a member of the AMA? Every AMA member gets to select one specialty organization to represent him or her. A vote for the AAN strengthens neurology’s stature in the AMA. Ballot here for the AAN

The AAN would like to congratulate Allen Gee, MD, PhD, FAAN, of Cody, Wyoming, for being awarded the athenaVision Award from athenahealth, Inc. in Boston. Gee was nominated for his work using innovative telemedicine technology to create a virtual practice eliminating geographical barriers to bring high-quality care to patients in Wyoming. 


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