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Federal Issues - Other Initiatives Archive - 2014

USDE Releases College Ratings System Draft Framework

On 12/19/2014, the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) released the draft framework of its Postsecondary Institution Ratings System (PIRS), commonly known as the college ratings system, asking the public for feedback. Since the President’s announcement in August 2013 of an agenda aimed to increase college value and affordability, this follows a series of outreach from the Administration seeking public input from stakeholders.  As part of this plan, the USDE has been tasked with developing and publishing a new college ratings system prior to the 2015 – 2016 academic year. The ratings system is intended to help students compare the value and affordability of colleges with the ultimate goal of tying the system to federal financial aid.  The broad framework provides the “big picture” that will provide further guidance to the actual development of the college ratings system.

AACOM continues to have serious concerns with this proposal and previously submitted comments to the USDE in response to its December 2013 Request for Information regarding technical expertise pertaining to data elements, metric, data collection, weighting, scoring, and the presentation of the ratings system: http://www.aacom.org/docs/default-source/public-statements/2014-01-31_usde-ratings.pdf?sfvrsn=6.

AACOM will submit comments on the draft framework on behalf of its member institutions, and looks forward to working with the Administration and Congress in addressing our concerns on behalf of the osteopathic medical education community.

Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Denies Request to Rehear Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin

On 11/12/14, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals denied Abigail Fisher’s request to rehear the caseFisher v. University of Texas at Austin, essentially upholding its decision from July 2014 in the University of Texas at Austin’s favor in a 2 to 1 ruling on the basis that the university‘s use of affirmative action in admissions is “narrowly tailored” and that  it lacks other possible ways to increase diversity. Fisher is the undergraduate applicant who sued the University of Texas at Austin for its use of affirmative action in its admissions process. Fisher’s legal team has indicated that it intends to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court a second time.

The Fifth Circuit Court previously heard oral arguments in November 2013, after the U.S. Supreme Court sent the case back in June 2013, stating that that the lower court did not apply “strict scrutiny” and still needed to determine the actual constitutionality of the university’s affirmative action policy.

AACOM previously joined with various other medical and health professions education organizations in signing on to an Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) amicus brief supporting the University of Texas at Austin in its case before the U.S. Supreme Court, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, et al.

For further information on the case, visit: AACOM’s Advocacy pages. Also see http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/fisher-v-university-of-texas-at-austin/.
 

AACOM GR Attends Politico Pro Health Emerging Health Care Leaders Event

On 11/6/14, AACOM GR staff attended a jointly sponsored event by Politico and WellPoint. The interview-style series, entitled “Emerging Health Care Leaders,” has taken place over the last four years in Washington, DC. Reporters from Politico interviewed several different individuals in the federal health policy arena to receive their perspective about the midterm elections, potential congressional action on the Affordable Care Act, Medicare’s sustainable growth rate, graduate medical education, prevention and the federal budget. The Emerging Leaders also shared their personal and professional experience working to improve the public health care system and the importance of coalition building and public private partnerships in addressing any issue. The emerging leaders highlighted in the discussion were: Tessie Abraham, Legislative Counsel, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.); Sohini Gupta, Principal, Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen Bingel & Thomas; Rachel Pryor, Senior Policy Advisor, U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging; Erin Richardson, Health Counsel, U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means; and Laura Wooster, Associate Vice President, Government Relations, American Osteopathic Association.

AACOM GR Staff Attends Congressional Briefing: Next-Gen R&D Partnerships: The NCATS Success Story

On 10/29/14, AACOM GR staff attended an event hosted by the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology Center for Clean Energy Innovation, “Next-Gen R&D Partnerships: The NCATS Success Story,” in Washington, DC. The discussion centered on challenges of the stage of research development termed the “valley of death” which is where many promising discoveries die because they are not sufficiently advanced to attract private or venture financing after scientific or clinical discovery. Because this issue affects so many treatments for rare diseases, the National Institutes of Health established a National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) which prioritizes overcoming challenges faced at the “valley of death” stage in research development. The event panel featured the following speakers: Matthew Stepp, Executive Director, Center for Clean Energy Innovation; Joe Allen, Former President, National Technology Transfer Center; Dr. Christopher Austin, Director of NCATS; Dr. Steve Seiler, CEO, AesRx, LLC; Dr. Bruce Trapnell, Assistant Director, Adult Cystic Fibrosis Center, Cincinnati Children Hospital; Paul Kaplan, Program Manager, Genzyme; and Ron Bartek, President, Friedreich's Ataxia Research Alliance. 

AACOM President and CEO Meets with White House Office of National Drug Control Policy

On 10/26/14, AACOM President and CEO Stephen C. Shannon, DO, MPH, and AACOM senior staff met with Michael Botticelli, Acting Director, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), to discuss potential collaboration opportunities with AACOM and its member institutions on substance abuse prevention and treatment.  Mr. Botticelli oversees the White House ONDCP, which was established by the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 to implement policies and priorities to work towards eradicating prohibited drug use, crime, and related activities, and promote drug prevention and drug treatment programs as well as its newly created programs for individuals in recovery from addiction. The ONDCP advises the President on drug-control issues, coordinates drug-control activities and related funding across the federal government, and produces the annual National Drug Control Strategy, which outlines Administration efforts to reduce illicit drug use, manufacturing and trafficking, drug-related crime and violence, and drug-related health consequences.  To view further info on the White House ONDCP, visit: http://www.whitehouse.gov/ondcp

IOM Committee Holds Public Briefing and Panel Discussion on GME Report Release

On 7/29/14, AACOM President and CEO and staff attended the Institute of Medicine (IOM) Committee on the Governance and Financing of Graduate Medical Education’s (Committee) public briefing and panel discussion on the release of its report, Graduate Medical Education that Meets the Nation’s Health Needs, in Washington, DC. The public briefing opened with welcome remarks from Victor Dzau, MD, IOM President, and a panel of speakers from the IOM Committee presented on the key findings and recommendations of the report, including Gail Wilensky, PhD, IOM Committee Co-Chair and Senior Fellow of Project HOPE; Deborah E. Powell, MD, Dean Emeritus of the University of Minnesota Medical School and Professor at its Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology; and Debra Weinstein, MD, Vice President for GME at Partners Healthcare System and Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Subsequently, a panel discussion on the report took place, co-hosted by the IOM and the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation. The panel discussion included comments from the aforementioned panel speakers from the IOM Committee, where various aspects of the report, including the report’s study process, scope, financing, and governance, were discussed. Additionally, two observers presented their comments on the report during the discussion, Malcom Cox, MD, Adjunct Professor at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, and Edward Salsberg, MPA, Research Faculty at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health and School of Nursing. The IOM Committee on Governance and Financing of Graduate Medical Education is an ad hoc committee established by the IOM as a result of multiple calls from stakeholders across the country, including a request from a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators to find solutions to achieve a greater alignment of financing with the public’s health care workforce needs. Its purpose was to develop a report with recommendations for policies to improve graduate medical education, with an emphasis on the training of physicians. The committee was charged with giving specific attention to increasing the capacity of the nation’s clinical workforce, so that it can deliver efficient and high-quality health care to meet the needs of our country’s diverse population. For more information on the committee and to view a recording of the public briefing, visit: http://www.iom.edu/Activities/Workforce/GMEGovFinance.aspx. Click here to view AACOM’s statement on the IOM Committee report release.

Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Rules in Favor of University of Texas at Austin, Fisher Asks for Rehearing 

On 7/15/14, the Fifth Circuit ruled in favor of the University of Texas at Austin in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, upholding the universities’ use of affirmative action in its admission policies. Specifically, in a 2 to 1 ruling, the court ruled that the university‘s use of affirmative action in admissions is “narrowly tailored” and that Texas lacks other viable ways to increase diversity.  Shortly thereafter, Abigail Fisher, the undergraduate applicant who sued the University of Texas at Austin’s use of affirmative action in admissions process, filed for a rehearing of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit’s decision.

Previously, the Fifth Circuit heard oral arguments in November 2013, which focused on past attempts by the university to increase minority enrollment and how the university defines “critical mass”.  The court rejected Fisher's claims that the university’s affirmative action efforts amounted to unconstitutional racial discrimination. When the Supreme Court remanded the case in June 2013, the Court stated that the lower court did not apply “strict scrutiny” and gave the university too much of the benefit of the doubt when it argued its program was narrowly tailored.

AACOM previously joined with 28 other health professions education and medical organizations in signing on to an Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) amicus brief supporting the University of Texas at Austin in its case before the U.S. Supreme Court, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, et al.

For further information on the case, please visit: http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/fisher-v-university-of-texas-at-austin/.

AACOM Leadership Meets with White House Office of National Drug Control Policy

In July 2014, Stephen C. Shannon, President and CEO, AACOM, and senior staff met with Mr. David K. Mineta, Deputy Director, Office of Demand Reduction, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to explore potential collaboration opportunities with AACOM and its member institutions on substance abuse prevention and treatment. 

Mr. Mineta oversees ONDCP’s Office of Demand Reduction which focuses on promoting drug prevention and drug treatment programs, as well as the agency's newly created focus on programs for individuals in recovery from addiction.  The ONDCP advises the President on drug-control issues, coordinates drug-control activities and related funding across the federal government, and produces the annual National Drug Control Strategy, which outlines Administration efforts to reduce illicit drug use, manufacturing and trafficking, drug-related crime and violence, and drug-related health consequences. 

To view further info on the White House ONDCP, visit: http://www.whitehouse.gov/ondcp.

Photo from left, David Mineta, MSW, Deputy Director, Office of Demand Reduction, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, with Luke Mortensen, PhD, AACOM VP and Chair for Medical Education; Stephen C. Shannon, DO, MPH, AACOM President and CEO; Pamela Murphy, MSW, VP of Government Relations; and Tyler Cymet, DO, AACOM Associate VP for Medical Education and Chief of Clinical Education.

AACOM GR Staff Attends New America Foundation Briefing on Higher Education

On 6/24/14, AACOM GR staff attended an event hosted by the New America Foundation, “A Shared Agenda for Reform: Making Higher Education Tax Breaks Work for Students and Families,” in Washington, DC. The discussion topics centered on the challenges and potential solutions surrounding education tax credit reform, as well as the critical importance of financial aid advisors at higher education institutions conveying to students the differences between various types of federal tax credits, particularly relating to the American Opportunity Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit. Moderated by Libby Nelson, education reporter at Vox, the panel featured the following speakers: Lily Batchelder, Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of the National Economic Council; Michael Dannenberg, Director of Higher Education and Education Finance Policy at The Education Trust; Steve Holt, Principal of HoltSolutions and Consultant to Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP); Rory O’Sullivan, Deputy Director at Young Invincibles; and Stephen Burd, Senior Policy Analyst for the Education Policy Program at the New America Foundation.

House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Holds Hearing on MedPAC’s June 2014 Report to Congress

On 6/18/14, the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee held a hearing on the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission’s (MedPAC) June 2014 report to Congress. The testifying witness was Mark E. Miller, Ph.D., Executive Director of MedPAC. 

The report details MedPAC’s recommendations for reforming Medicare payment policies, and examines such issues as payment changes to boost primary care and ensuring patient access to these services, and if payment accuracy can improve should changes to Medicare’s risk adjustment methodology be made.

MedPAC is an independent Congressional agency established by the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 (P.L. 105-33) to advise Congress on issues affecting the Medicare payment policy. The Commission is required to submit reports to Congress on a bi-annual basis; annually, the first report is due on March 15 and the second report is due by June 15.

AACOM GR Staff Attends Senate HELP Subcommittee Hearing on Primary Care

On 4/9/14, AACOM GR staff attended the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Subcommittee on Primary Care and Aging hearing. The hearing, entitled, “Addressing Primary Care Access and Workforce Challenges: Voices from the Field”, focused on the issues of physician workforce shortage, primary care access crisis, and strategic approaches of ways to augment the U.S. physician workforce. Testifying witnesses include the following: Rebecca Spitzgo, Associate Administrator, Bureau of Clinician Recruitment and Service, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Gary Wiltz, M.D., Executive Director and Clinic Director, Teche Action Clinic; Stan Brock, Founder and President, Remote Area Medical; Joseph Nichols, M.D., M.P.H., Family Medicine Resident, Medstar Franklin Square Family Health Center; Margaret Flinter, A.P.R.N., Ph.D., Senior Vice President and Clinical Director, Community Health Center, Inc.; Deborah Edberg, M.D., Program Director, McGaw Northwestern Family Medicine Residency Program, Erie Family Health Center and Assistant Professor of Clinical Family and Community Medicine, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine; Allen Dobson Jr., M.D., President and CEO, Community Care of North Carolina; Linda Kohn, Ph.D., Director of Health Care, Government Accountability Office; and James Hotz, M.D., Clinical Services Director, Albany Area Primary Care.

President Signs One-Year SGR Patch

On Tuesday, April 1, 2014, President Obama signed the "Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014”, which creates a one-year patch for the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) Medicare physician payment formula, to April 2015. On March 31, the U.S. Senate passed the legislation in a vote of 64-35 just prior to the previous SGR patch expiration. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the bill in a voice vote on March 27. 

The law also delays the ICD-10 compliance deadline by a year, to Oct. 1, 2015 as well as delays new rules for hospitals in determining inpatient and outpatient status, called the “two midnights” rule. The law is paid for by extending the Medicare sequester to 2024, extending cuts to the Medicaid DSH program, and requiring repairs to codes that set physician payments and makes changes to payments for skilled nursing facilities and clinical labs.

House Speaker Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Reid negotiated the patch after it became apparent that there was no bipartisan pathway to pay for the permanent repeal negotiated earlier this year. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Wyden opposed the patch in favor of a permanent fix.  Many physician groups were unsupportive of the bill, which averted a pay cut for the 17th time instead of repealing the SGR. These groups have long argued for a permanent solution.

SCOTUS Upholds Michigan's Ban on Affirmative Action

The U.S. Supreme Court on April 22, 2014 upheld the right of states to bar public colleges and universities to consider race or ethnicity in admissions decisions. By a vote of 6 to 2, the Court’s decision in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, ruled that a Michigan ballot initiative to ban racial preferences in college admissions is constitutional, overturning a lower court decision. The Michigan ballot initiative, known as Proposal 2, was passed in 2006. In November 2012, a divided 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati ruled Michigan's ban unconstitutional, prompting the state to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The ruling states that universities may still employ the limited consideration of race authorized in previous Supreme Court rulings, but it also states that voters and legislators have the right to curtail such plans.

On May 6, the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education released a letter affirming the right of colleges without such state bans to consider race and ethnicity, within the limits of other court decisions.
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