December 2009 E-Newsletter - Policy Focus

The Parkinson’s Action Network (PAN) would like to thank our advocates for their dedication throughout this tremendously busy year.  We hope that you will continue to work with your Members of Congress and voice your support for the important issues affecting the Parkinson’s community in the New Year.  With your voice, we can continue to break down barriers to securing better treatments and a cure for Parkinson’s, secure additional funding for Parkinson’s research, and ensure that government programs benefit those living with this disease.

Congress is racing to finish several initiatives before the year’s end—including health reform and the final appropriations bill.  The Senate is currently considering its health reform bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  Two important amendments have been offered to the Senate health reform legislation that affect our community.

The first is an amendment offered by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), to add neurologists to the list of specialties eligible for a Medicare primary care incentive.  Currently, neurology is not listed as a specialty eligible for primary care incentives in section 5501 of the Senate health reform bill, even though family practice, internal medicine (including endocrinology and cardiology), pediatrics, and geriatrics are included.  As you all know, neurologists provide principle care for many people living with Parkinson’s disease, and excluding neurologists could have long-lasting implications for all people living with neurological conditions.

The second amendment aims to accelerate the discovery and approval of promising new drugs and therapies through new grant-making mechanisms at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA), Senate Co-Chair of the Bicameral Congressional Caucus on Parkinson’s Disease, offered the Cures Acceleration Network (CAN) Act of 2009 (SA 2866) as an amendment to health reform.  Sen. Specter's amendment will establish CAN within the Office of the Director of NIH and authorize grants to move discovery from the lab into the next generation of therapies for people living with Parkinson’s and many other diseases.  CAN will be overseen by a Board of diverse membership and expertise, and will receive input from key stakeholders, patient advocacy organizations, and agencies outside of NIH.  PAN has focused on the troubling trend of promising research being delayed in the development pipeline for quite some time now.  This is why Sen. Specter's amendment is so important, and why PAN strongly supports it.

If you have not done so already, please take a moment and contact your senators in support of both amendments. There is still time to ensure that these essential amendments are included in the Senate health reform bill.  Take action now!

Congress has nearly completed the appropriations process for Fiscal Year 2010, with only the Defense appropriations bill remaining.  On December 13, Congress completed a package of appropriations bills, which included $31 billion for NIH.  This is a $692 million increase over last year’s funding level.  The House passed the Defense appropriations bill earlier this week, which will fund the Neurotoxin Exposure Treatment Parkinson’s Research  (NETPR) program and the entire Department of Defense for Fiscal Year 2010.  Despite the tough economic climate, PAN advocates helped secure $25 million for the NETPR program, the only Parkinson’s-specific research program funded by the Federal government.  The Senate is in the process of finalizing the same bill.

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