Policy Year in Review

December 2010 Monthly Message

- AAN Releases Parkinson's Quality Care Measures
- Policy Year in Review
- PAN/FasterCures Valley of Death paper
- PAN CEO Featured on Comcast Newsmakers
- Support our Advocacy Work
- Parkinson's in the Media

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Parkinson’s Legislative Issues: The Year in Review
By John Schall

There’s no doubt 2010 was a challenging political year in the United States.  In light of that, I want you to know that on Parkinson’s issues, we managed very well and ended the year with many successes because of you.  PAN would like to thank you for your tireless advocacy throughout 2010, and we look forward to working with you on our issues in the coming year.  Below is an overview of our key legislative focus areas, and how we fared.

Funding for Parkinson’s Priorities:
Congress is working on a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the federal government through the rest of Fiscal Year (FY) 2011.  The numbers are still not final yet, but as of today this is how it looks like the numbers will come out.

Win The Department of Defense Parkinson’s research program will get $25 million for 2011.
Win The National Institutes of Health (NIH) will be allowed to spend up to $25 million to start the Cures Acceleration Network, a new program that aims to cut the time between scientific discovery and the development of new drugs and therapies.
Loss Unfortunately, NIH will not receive its proposed $1 billion increase for FY 2011.  But, Congress is also working on an omnibus appropriations bill (as an alternative to the CR) which, if passed, would give NIH an increase of $750 million, so stay tuned.

Access to Medicare Therapy Services:
Throughout the year, PAN fought to maintain access to medically necessary Medicare therapy services.  There is an annual limit on the amount of outpatient therapy services for which an individual can be reimbursed ($1,870 in 2011).  Those patients who exceed the cap can still get therapy services for no additional cost through a “medically necessary” exceptions process, but the exceptions process was set to expire on December 31.

Win Our efforts paid off and on December 9, Congress sent President Obama a bill that extends the exceptions process through all of calendar year 2011.  This means that people living with Parkinson’s disease who need medically necessary therapy services will not have to pay out-of-pocket next year.

National Neurological Diseases Surveillance System Act:
We came so far!  We got the bill introduced last year.  PAN advocates helped secure 206 members of the House as co-sponsors.  Our community got 30 Senators to co-sponsor it.  Action Alerts helped get the House Energy and Commerce Committee to pass it unanimously.  We even got the full House of Representatives to pass the bill on a voice vote.  But, the National Neurological Diseases Surveillance System Act (H.R. 1362/S. 1273) was stopped in the Senate by Senator Tom Coburn from Oklahoma.

Loss Despite the great show of support for this legislation, we could not secure passage of the bill in the Senate.  We will restart the process for passage of this important bill when the 112th Congress convenes in January.  Stay tuned for Action Alerts on how you can help.

The New 112th Congress:
As we look to the new incoming Congress, all eight of our Co-Chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Parkinson’s Disease – four Democrats, four Republicans; four House, four Senate – will be returning.  One of our Co-Chairs, Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), takes over as Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which handles health legislation.  With 96 freshman members of the House and 16 new Senators, we will have a lot of new members to recruit for the Congressional Caucus on Parkinson’s Disease.