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Lame Duck Kicks Off

November 24, 2014

By Mike Amery, Legislative Counsel, Federal Affairs

Renewed Fight Against SGR Needs Your Support
A top priority of the AAN during the current lame duck session of Congress is to finally pass a complete repeal of the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula, which now calls for physician Medicare reimbursement to be cut by 20.2 percent when the most recent patch expires on March 31, 2015.  

The AAN has joined the entire physician community in lobbying members of Congress to make this a top priority. As readers of Capitol Hill Report may remember, with the support of the physician community, Congress came to an agreement last spring on ending the SGR and replacing it with new physician payment models. All that is needed is for congressional leaders to find offsets for the cost.

The consequences of not passing this SGR solution in the lame duck Congress are severe. If this is pushed into 2015, it will require new legislation that is certain to be debated strenuously, and with turnover in Congress, it will be difficult to get the current agreement again. All of this contributes to perpetual uncertainty in the Medicare program for both physicians and patients.

All US AAN members received an action alert from the Academy last week asking them to contact their members of Congress to pass a permanent SGR repeal. If you haven’t had a chance to send a message, please do so as soon as possible.

AAN Ally Wins Top Energy & Commerce Committee Post
Members of Congress returned to Washington last week. They were joined by the incoming class of 57 House and 12 Senate freshmen to elect leadership and committee chairs for the 114th Congress that begins January 6, 2015.

As expected, Republicans re-elected Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) as the leader of the House and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was elected Senate Majority Leader. Democrats retained their leaders Rep. Nancy Pelosi (CA) and Sen. Harry Reid (NV).

The one key race for the AAN was the election of Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey to be the ranking member (leader of the minority party) of the Energy & Commerce Committee (E&C). Pallone won 100-90 in a Democratic Caucus secret ballot over Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA).

E&C has jurisdiction over many of the federal health care policy decisions impacting physicians and patients. For years we have collaborated closely with Pallone and his staff while he led Democrats on the E&C Health Subcommittee. Pallone has worked to ensure that neurology is included in efforts to improve payments for primary and cognitive physicians. He recently authored legislation to extend the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid bump with the inclusion of neurology.

I joined Rep. Pallone, his staff, and other supporters for a victory party after his election so I could extend a personal congratulation from the AAN on his close victory. We are looking forward to continuing to work with him as he leads House Democrats on E&C.    

Era of Bera Continues
It appeared that neurology supporter Rep. Ami Bera, MD, (D-CA) had lost his re-election bid, as I mentioned in the last Capitol Hill Report. However, Bera came back with a victory when his district’s absentee and provisional ballots finally were tallied. This puts another candidate supported by our BrainPAC in the win column and returns a neurology champion to Congress for a second term. Congratulations, Rep. Bera!


AAN Advocates for New Streamlined Physician Licensure Legislation
By Tim Miller , Senior Program Manager, Communication and State Advocacy

Earlier this year, the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) released model legislation with the goal of streamlining the licensure process for those physicians who wish to be licensed in multiple states. Known as the “Interstate Compact,” not only would it remove some administrative burdens during the licensing process, it also would help increase access to care for patients in underserved areas. 

Highlights of the compact include:

  • Voluntary participation for both states and physicians
  • Each state retains sovereignty on traditional issues reserved for state jurisdictions
  • Physicians must follow the rules in each state
  • A license to practice can be revoked by all compact states
  • Not all physicians are eligible (such as physicians who have been reprimanded, etc.)

The AMA officially adopted policy on this issue during the Interim House of Delegates meeting in early November, with the AAN providing vocal support. States can begin considering adopting this legislation in 2015. The Academy looks forward to working with policymakers, the AMA, FSMB, and other stakeholders to help advance this important legislation. 

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