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Federal Issues - Other Initiatives Archive - 2015

AACOM GR Hosts Women in Government Relations White House Education Event

On Friday, October 16, 2015, AACOM Government Relations hosted the Women in Government Relations (WGR) Education Task Force for a panel discussion titled,The Obama Administration’s Education and Workforce Development Legacy.  The panel, which included White House Associate Director of Public Education, Kyle Lierman, focused on the administration’s remaining policy priorities in education and workforce development as President Obama heads into his final year in office and as Secretary of Education Arne Duncan prepares to leave the Administration at the end of 2015.  More information about WGR can be found at: http://www.wgr.org/.

AACOM Participates in Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research Town Hall

On 10/16/2015, AACOM GR attended a town hall hosted by the Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research. Specifically, members discussed strategies to encourage long-term funding investments at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the new Senate NIH Caucus, and a need to increase membership and urge bipartisan involvement, and reported on various outreach efforts being undertaken across the various organizations. During the open forum, had the opportunity to discuss their organizational advocacy plans and other projects of interest to the medical research community. The Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research is a coalition of patient and voluntary health groups, medical and scientific societies, academic and research organizations, and industry stakeholders who support investment in medical research at the NIH.

AACOM Government Relations Attends National Journal Forum on Health Care Coverage

On Thursday, October 8, AACOM Government Relations staff attended “The Next America: From Coverage to Care,” a forum hosted by National Journal.  The discussion brought together health care providers, public health leaders, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health leadership, and community outreach groups to discuss the challenges in providing adequate care to the newly insured under the Affordable Care Act.  Panel members stressed the importance of culturally competent care, educating the public about the services available, and a growing focus on the social determinants of health. 

For more information about the forum, visit
National Journal.

GR Staff Attends Primary Care Briefing at the Launch of the Congressional Primary Care Caucus

On 10/8/2015, AACOM GR attended a briefing at the official launch of the bipartisan congressional Primary Care Caucus. The Caucus, co-chaired by Representatives David Rouzer (R-NC) and Joe Courtney (D-CT), hosted a briefing entitled The Impact of Primary Care on Rural and Urban Underserved Communities.Panelists included Caucus co-chairs as well as Andrew Bazemore, MD, Director of the Robert Graham Center; Robert Rich, MD, a family physician from Elizabethtown, NC; and Jennifer Granger, COO of United Community and Family Services located in Norwich, CT. The Primary Care Caucus was created to educate and advocate on behalf of primary care physicians, providers, and patients, and will focus oneducating Congress on the importance of a comprehensive, continuous, coordinated, and connected primary care system for patients and communities nationwide.

AACOM Government Relations Supports Rally to #RaisetheCaps

AACOM Government Relations joined NDD United in attending a rally outside the Capitol on Wednesday October 7, 2015 urging Congress to end the devastating sequestration cuts to nondefense discretionary spending, which affects investments in education and health care.  The rally was attended by the Minority House Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jack Reed (D-RI), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and othermembers of the House of Representatives Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM), Robin Kelly (D-IL), and Nita Lowey (D-NY). The Budget Control Act (BCA), which was passed in August 2011, implemented sequestration beginning in 2013 through 2021, providing across-the-board spending cuts to defense programs and nondefense discretionary programs.

House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Holds Hearing on Rural Health Care Issues

On 7/28/15, the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee held a hearing on rural health care disparities in relation to Medicare regulations.  Convened by Subcommittee Chair Kevin Brady (R-TX), the hearing focused on the issues of the physician workforce shortage specifically in rural areas, and examined strategic approaches to augment the U.S. physician workforce, including innovative ways to increase graduate medical education slots.  Testifying witnesses include the following: Tim Joslin, CEO, Community Regional Medical Centers in Fresno, California; Shannon Sorensen, CEO, Brown County Hospital in Ainsworth, Nebraska; Carrie Saia, CEO, Holton Community Hospital in Holton, Kansas; Daniel Derksen, M.D., Director, Arizona Center for Rural Health in Tucson, Arizona.

House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Holds Hearing on Medicare Payment Issues

On 7/22/15, the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee held a hearing on issues related to Medicare hospital payment and beneficiary access to care.  The testifying witness was Mark E. Miller, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC). 

Dr. Miller highlighted recent trends in hospital payments, including ways to finance graduate medical education, as well as MedPAC’s recommendations to improve the accuracy of fee-for-service payments which includes moving more rural hospitals to a more fully prospective payment model. Further information on MedPAC’s recommendations for increased payment accuracy

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 program. Comprised of seventeen members, the Commission advises Congress on payments to private health plans participating in Medicare and providers in Medicare's traditional fee-for-service program.  Additionally, MedPAC is tasked with analyzing access to care, quality of care, and other issues affecting Medicare.

President Obama Proposes Student Aid Bill of Rights

On 3/10/15, President Obama proposed a new Student Aid Bill of Rights, outlining a series of new actions to direct the Department of Education, Department of Treasury, Office of Management and Budget, Office of Science and Technology Policy and Domestic Policy Council, to work with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Social Security Administration, in ensuring that “Every student in America:  

  1. Have access to a high-quality, affordable higher education, 
  2. Be able to easily find the resources they need to pay for college, 
  3. Be able to choose an affordable repayment plan for student loans, and 
  4. Receive quality customer service, reliable information, and fair treatment when repaying loans.” 

Some of the action items included are calling on the Department of Education to create a centralized portal in which borrowers could get information on, and pay down, their student loans as well as asking the Department to develop an online student aid complaint system, which would allow borrowers to monitor their tickets and would double as a way to aggregate better data on issues and trends.  It also aims to improve student loan servicing for borrowers, including the notification to borrowers of transfer between servicers.

USDE Issues Guidance to Protect Students While Using Educational Sites

On 2/26/15, the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) released a guidance containing terms of service provisions and a training video to help schools protect student data while using educational websites and applications. Created to help school officials identify online service providers that have strong security policies, the guidance provides examples of terms of service provisions that help schools evaluate potential agreements and offer direction in regard to technical terminology frequently used in such agreements.

Additionally, the guidance makes recommendations, including the following: service provider agreements must provide ample security policies or face a violation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act; agreements must state that only necessary data should be provided to fulfill the terms; agreements must indicate that student data may not be utilized to create profiles for marketing and advertising. The document also provides links to the Privacy Technical Assistance Center and other resources that offer additional best-practice recommendations related to terms of online service agreements.

MedPAC Recommends to Congress the Continuation of Primary Care Bonus

On 1/15/2015, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) unanimously voted to recommend to Congress the indefinite continuation of the Medicare bonus for primary care services through a new payment policy.  As this Primary Care Incentive Payment (PCIP) program expired on December 31, MedPAC voted to replace PCIP through the development of a permanent per beneficiary payment which would be paid for by a 1.4 percent cut to Medicare reimbursement for certain emergency department services.  The PCIP program was established by the Affordable Care Act, which allowed Medicare to pay eligible physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and clinical nurse specialists a 10 percent bonus for primary care services that began in 2011. 

According to the most recent data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the PCIP program cost the agency $664 million dollars in 2012.  According to MedPAC, this program resulted in an average payment of $3,938 per eligible practitioner that year and was not largely effective in incentivizing physicians to enter into primary care specialties.  The recommendation will be included in MedPAC’s March report to Congress. For further information about MedPAC and its reports, visit: http://www.medpac.gov/.

Congressional Academic Medicine Caucus Re-Launches in the 114th Congress

U.S. Representatives Phil Roe, MD (R-TN) and Kathy Castor (D-FL) have re-launched the Congressional Academic Medicine Caucus (CAMC), which was originally established in 2009. The CAMC is dedicated to maintaining and strengthening the United States’ role as a leader in advanced medical care. This bipartisan Caucus provides a forum for members to discuss unique health care, research, and training missions of teaching hospitals and medical schools. In particular, the Caucus focuses on approaches to addressing solutions to the impending physician shortage in both primary and specialty care as the population continues to age and grow. AACOM will continue to work with this Caucus as it begins its critical work in the 114th Congress.

Fisher Asks SCOTUS to Review Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Ruling in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin

On 2/10/2015, Abigail Fisher filed for a petition a writ of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court asking for its review of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in July 2014 where it ruled in favor of the University of Texas at Austin in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. The Fifth Circuit ruled on the basis that the university’s use of affirmative action in admissions was “narrowly tailored” and that it lacked other viable ways to increase diversity.

Shortly after the ruling, Fisher, the undergraduate applicant who sued the university’s use of affirmative action in admissions process, filed with the Fifth Circuit Court a request for a rehearing of the case but was denied in November 2014.  Earlier, the Fifth Circuit Court heard oral arguments in November 2013 after the Supreme Court sent the case back in June 2013 on the basis that the lower court did not apply “strict scrutiny” and the constitutionality of the university’s affirmative action policy had yet to be determined.

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, please visit: http://www.scotusblog.com/page/2/.

Senate Confirms Michael Botticelli as Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy

On 2/9/2015, the U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed Michael Botticelli, M.Ed., by a vote of 92-0, as Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP).  Nominated by President Obama, Botticelli has served as Acting Director of ONDCP and as Deputy Director since November 2012. 

Prior to joining the Administration, Botticelli served as Director of the Bureau of Substance Abuse Services at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health where he oversaw the expansion of nationally-recognized prevention, treatment, intervention, and recovery services.

As Director of ONDCP, Botticelli is responsible for overseeing the Administration’s efforts to coordinate government-wide public health and public safety approach to reduce drug use and its consequences.  In particular, this effort includes a renewed emphasis on community-based prevention programs, early intervention programs in healthcare settings, aligning criminal justice policies and public health systems to redirect non-violent drug offenders into treatment, funding scientific research on drug use, and expanding access to substance abuse treatment.

A component of the Executive Office of the President, ONDCP was created by the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988.  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 the Administration’s efforts to reduce illicit drug use, manufacturing and trafficking, drug-related crime and violence, and drug-related health consequences.

GR Staff Attends Health Affairs Briefing on Biomedical Innovation

On 2/5/2015, AACOM GR staff attended a briefing hosted byHealth Affairs regarding biomedical innovation, the thematic focus of its February issue, in Washington, DC.  Alan Weil, Editor in Chief ofHealth Affairs, made opening remarks and introduced four panels that focused on various aspects of biomedical innovation.The first panel was comprised of authors who discussed issues related to economic barriers to pharmaceutical innovations, including the development of new antibiotics. The second panel presented cutting edge research on the use of technology in healthcare, from forecast models and valve replacements to the use of robots in surgery. After a brief question and answer period, the third panel presented research on obstacles to health innovation from a sociological standpoint. Lastly, in light of the President’s recent push for the Precision Medicine Initiative, the final panel was comprised of researchers and authors who discussed the impact of economic barriers to financing personalized healthcare innovations. To view the webcast or to listen to the podcast of the briefing, please visit:  http://www.healthaffairs.org/events/2015_02_05_biomedical_innovation/

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