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Capitol Hill Report: Virginia Elects AAN Member as Governor

NOVEMBER 20, 2017

Here Is the Latest from Washington

AAN Member Elected Governor of Virginia
AAN member and child neurologist Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, MD, was elected to be the 73rd governor of Virginia, the highest elected public office ever held by a neurologist. Northam is a Democrat.

  • Northam has been an AAN member since 1990
  • First elected to the Virginia State Senate in 2007
  • Elected lieutenant governor in 2013
  • Will succeed current Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) in January 2018

Look for a comprehensive article on the rise of this neurologist to governor in a future issue of Neurology Now®.

AAN Advocates for Neurology at AMA House of Delegates
The American Medical Association (AMA) hosted its 2017 Interim Meeting of the House of Delegates from November 10 to 14. The Interim Meeting has a specific focus on issues related to advocacy and there were more than 100 items on the agenda for delegates to review and debate. Resolutions covered a number of topics important to neurology including the Quality Payment Program (QPP), drug pricing, physician burnout, reimbursement, medical marijuana, electronic health records, and opioids.

The AAN delegation worked with other national medical specialty societies and state medical societies to cosponsor several resolutions. The House of Delegates passed a neurology-cosponsored resolution which opposes the inclusion of Medicare Part B drugs in the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) payment adjustment as part of the QPP. The AAN was also a cosponsor on a resolution that promotes transparency in drug pricing by pharmacy benefit managers. This resolution was combined with several others related to drug pricing transparency and passed the House of Delegates. A final resolution cosponsored by neurology was referred to the AMA Board of Trustees for further study of the cost component under MIPS. The House of Delegates also passed a formal opposition to reduced payments with a modifier 25 and amended existing policy to underscore the importance of appropriate fees for maintenance of certification exams.

The AMA House of Delegates offers a critical opportunity for neurology issues to be heard within the greater community of medicine. Thank you to the AAN delegation, including Shannon Kilgore, MD, FAAN; Nicholas E. Johnson, MD; Eddie Patton, MD, MS; William Davison, MD, FAAN, Mark Milstein, MD, FAAN; Ann Murray, MD; and Jonathan Santoro, MD.

Koroshetz Updates American Brain Coalition on BRAIN Initiative 
The American Brain Coalition (ABC) recently held its 15th annual member meeting in Washington, DC, in conjunction with the Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting. A few quick facts about ABC:

  • Represents the leading professional neurological, psychological, and psychiatric associations and patient organizations
  • Has more than 100 organizations, representing more than 50 million Americans
  • The AAN is a founding member and has a seat on ABC's board of directors

During this meeting, the ABC members received an update on a top priority, the BRAIN Initiative, from Walter J. Koroshetz, MD, FAAN, director of the National Institute of Neurological Disease and Stroke at NIH. Launched in 2013, the BRAIN Initiative is working to revolutionize our understanding of the human brain by accelerating the development and application of innovative technologies. To date, the BRAIN Initiative has funded the work of 178 investigators at 56 institutions, including $260 million in 2017 alone. The AAN has advocated strongly in support for this program with great success. Each year funding for the BRAIN Initiative has increased significantly, from $80 million in its inaugural year to a proposed $400 million for FY2018. 

Proposed Tax Reform Affects Patients and Physicians
Last week the House of Representatives passed its version of tax reform on a mostly party-line vote of 227-205. The package includes many changes to the US tax code, including a few that may affect your practice and patients, including:  

  • Elimination of the medical expense deduction, which allows individuals to deduct medical expenses that exceed 10% of their adjusted gross income
  • Elimination of tax credits for research on rare disease treatments

Over the next few weeks the Senate will attempt to pass their own version of tax reform. Initial Senate proposals currently retain the medical expense deduction and only reform, rather than eliminate, the tax credits for rare disease research. The Senate version also includes a repeal of the individual mandate for health insurance.

Congressionally-Directed Medical Research Program Preserved
The last Capitol Hill Report shared that research funded through the Congressionally-Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP) at the US Department of Defense was at risk of being eliminated.

I'm pleased to announce that the provisions that would have eliminated the CDMRP were stripped from the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), thanks to the advocacy efforts of many supporters, including the AAN. This change ensures that the critical research being conducted by the CDMRP will continue, including millions of dollars in neurologic studies.

Engage with Your State Neurosociety
With 2017 coming to a close, so does the fall line-up of state neurosociety meetings. In the past two months, ten state societies met, bringing together neurology professionals for networking and educational opportunities on a local level. Learn more and register for a Spring 2018 meeting.  

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