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Capitol Hill Report: Congressional Chaos Doesn't Sway AAN Advocacy

October 12, 2015

AAN Advocacy Strong Enough to Handle Leadership Changes 
By Mike Amery, Esq., Senior Legislative Counsel, Federal Affairs

I have written in Capitol Hill Report about how powerful the leadership in Congress is for both parties. A perfect example is the SGR reform bill that passed earlier this year. Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) got tired of hearing about this issue from physician specialty societies like the AAN, so according to the speaker himself, he called Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and said, “Let's get this done.” A short while later, 393 members of Congress voted to eliminate a nearly $200 billion problem that had hung around Congress for a decade.

A few weeks ago, Boehner announced he will resign from Congress at the end of October. I, for one, will miss him as he was always fair and honest with me on a host of issues impacting neurology. We put a lot of time and energy into making sure that he and his staff were well aware of those issues.

We also put a lot of effort into cultivating relationships with other members of the leadership on both sides of the aisle, as well as rank and file members who having promising legislative careers. It is important to educate these future leaders so they are receptive to our input as they move up the ladder.

The next speaker was supposed to be the current House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). To elect a new speaker, House lawmakers (both Republicans and Democrats) vote on the House floor, with 218 supporters required to win. Republicans currently hold 247 seats in Congress, so it should be easy, right? Wrong.

McCarthy determined that he could “win the nomination” of the Republicans by gaining a majority of votes in a secret ballot election in a closed Republican Conference meeting that convened Thursday. But getting to 218 in the open House floor vote scheduled for October 29 was an entirely different question. Moments before the internal vote, McCarthy withdrew from the speaker race. Speaker Boehner postponed the vote and declared he would stay on as speaker until the Republicans figure out what to do.

We have worked with many of the potential candidates for speaker. The leading consensus candidate may be Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) if he will agree to run, but so far he has declined. Others, including Reps. Steve Scalise (R-LA), Tom Price, MD, (R-GA), and Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), face the same uphill climb as McCarthy did of gathering enough votes to win.

We had the good fortune of having AAN Vice-President James C. Stevens, MD, FAAN, of Indiana on the Hill right after the Speake Boehner's announcement and had a meeting that we thought was really going to count. Dr. Stevens and I met with McCarthy at an event for Rep. Alex Mooney (R-WV). “It was a real thrill to meet Rep. McCarthy right as he is beginning his campaign for the speakership,” said Dr. Stevens shortly after. “Perfect timing for the AAN to get a few minutes to raise some key issues.” Or so we thought! I was able to get a quick picture of Rep. Mooney, myself, Rep. McCarthy, and Dr. Stevens.

Dr. Stevens spent his day on the Hill describing the struggles that he faces as a private practice neurologist just trying to treat patients. Whether it is Maintenance of Certification, EHRs and meaningful use, or a host of other rules and regulations, Stevens discussed with members of Congress how it takes more time and money while providing no benefit to patient care. Another key meeting for Dr. Stevens was a lunch with Rep. Fred Upton, (R-MI), chair of the House Energy & Commerce Committee. Upton (seen here with Dr. Stevens and me) is a key figure in our chances of getting a cost analysis for HR 2799, the Furthering Access to Stroke Telemedicine Act (FAST Act), which would improve access to neurologists for stroke patients via telestroke consultations. Dr. Stevens was able to speak firsthand of using telemedicine to provide stroke consultations and asked Upton to help move this important piece of legislation.

Palatucci Advocacy Leadership Forum Project Pays Benefits
The AAN's Palatucci Advocacy Leadership Program is a regular topic of Capitol Hill Report because of the tremendous value this experience offers to members and how they are empowered to create change. If you are interested in headache, you have to take a look at Headachereliefguide.com from a desktop computer.

This is a website designed by 2012 Palatucci graduate Jennifer Bickel, MD, of Missouri, as a part of her Forum project. The purpose is to decrease headache related school disability in teens. This website will be leveraged by local school nurses in a pilot project aimed at educating students seeking help with headaches. The goal is to encourage them to set up an appointment with a physician to discuss treatments before the downward spiral of headache disability occurs.

The 2016 Palatucci Forum application is now open for the May 12 to 15 event, which will be held near Albuquerque, NM.

The Academy also is accepting applications for the 2016 Neurology on the Hill, held February 29 to  March 1 in Washington, DC.    


Electronic Health Record Incentive Program “Meaningful Use” Update
By Elizabeth Bradshaw, Program Manager, Medical Economics

Last week, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released their long-awaited final rules regarding Stage 3 of the Electronic Health Record Incentive Program, “Meaningful Use,” as well as modifications to the program planned for CY 2015-2017. The Academy is pleased that our key comments around Stage 3 of the program were taken into consideration, specifically:

  • Reduction of performance thresholds to allow for maximum success
  • Simplification of program requirements
  • Introduction of flexibility within certain objectives
  • Flexibility allowing for participation in Stage 3 in 2017-but not required until 2018
  • An overall focus on promoting interoperability of EHR systems

The Academy remains committed to helping members achieve success in this important program.


State Neurosociety Meetings
Below are upcoming state neurosociety meetings. Contact Grant Niver, Program Manager, State Society Relations, with any questions.

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