Friday, February 24, 2012


Ted Thompson, JD
Vice President of Federal Government Relations

Good Afternoon!

 'Federal Fridays' is an informal update of events in and around Washington DC, and sometimes in the states, relating to public policy.  It is distributed via email on the 2nd and 4th Fridays of the month and if you’d like to be added to the distribution list, please email

I thought I’d start this edition with a stunning sunrise of the U.S. Capitol taken on Wednesday.  Check out this morning’s Washington Post to see dozens of sunsets that are just beautiful!

The President’s Budget.  Last week President Obama and his team rolled out its FY2013 federal budget proposal.  Our office was involved in briefings by the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services.  The White House issued many fact sheets including this one about people with disabilities.

Debt Ceiling Impasse 2.0.  There is mounting speculation that the current debt ceiling will not be sufficient to get us through the end of 2012 and that the crisis could erupt in the heat of the Presidential campaign.

Wanted:  30,000 physicians.  The Washington Post reports that one result of implementing health reform will be a dramatic physician shortage.  We already know of the neurologist shortage, especially those who specialize in MS, but shortages will be far and wide.

Caregiving story.  The Chicago Tribune recently ran a story about the increasingly male caregiving population that was very interesting.

Investing in Medical Research.  I ran across this guest commentary by the Dean of the University of Washington medical school where he highlights the economic impact of research, not to mention that it also saves lives!

Federal Funding for State Exchanges.  Federal officials say another 10 states are getting a total of $230 million to set up new health insurance exchanges, the web-based marketplaces outlined in the Affordable Care Act. Seven of them — Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania — have either adopted a plan or are making substantial headway.  Check out the Administrations ACA website to learn more.

ACA & SCOTUS.  Well the challenges to the Affordable Care Act are now at the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) and the Court recently added another 30 minutes to oral arguments, for a total of 3 hours on March 26-28.  This may not seem like much, but it’s apparently the longest time provided for oral arguments since the civil rights era.  While the focus has been on the individual mandate, another provision being challenged is the Medicaid expansion.  Among other groups, the National Council on Aging filed a brief supporting the expansion.  FamiliesUSA created a simple, easy to use and understand ‘Talking Points’ handout that is very good.

Constitutionality of Medicaid Expansion Defended.  How the court rules on this part of the challenge could dramatically alter Congressional purview regarding tax and spend policies.  On December 15, 2011 longtime Republican Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley took to the Senate floor and delivered a strong defense of congressional prerogative regarding the Medicaid program and predicted ‘dire consequences’ of congressional power if the Court finds for the States.  Find his full statement here.  And if you agree with him, send him a note from his contact page to say ‘Thank You’.

Share, Retweet, and Repeat.  I just learned of a book recently published that provides insight and direction into how best to use Social Media.  I haven’t read it yet, nor is this an  endorsement, but I thought I’d pass along.

Health Law ‘Tool’.  AARP has created an online guide to help people find resources tailored to individual needs, whether it's about Medicare, health insurance coverage for you or your family, or public programs.  It’s also available in Spanish and you can find it here.

54 Million.  That’s how many additional Americans are receiving preventive services coverage without cost-sharing under the Affordable Care Act according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  Read the report here.

Cost to bring new drugs to market.  Forbes reports that on average it now costs between $1 billion and $4 billion to bring a new medication to market. 

Cleveland Clinic.  We recently partnered with the Cleveland Clinic to host a Congressional briefing on promising stem cell research they are doing through funding provided by the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP).  The first patient in the clinical trial was there and did a terrific job highlighting his progress.  I subsequently found this hopeful piece about the Clinic on the future of MS research.

ACA Impact in your State.  The Kaiser Family Foundation has created an interactive map that tracks the impact the Affordable Care Act has had in each state.  It includes the ability to search by Zip Code.  Check it out at Kaiser.

 White House Disability Call.  Each month the White House hosts a disability call and they encourage wide distribution of the call so as many people can participate as possible.  This month’s call is on February 29 at 3 pm ET.  If you would like to be added to the White House Disability Group email distribution list, please visit and fill out the "contact us" form in the disabilities section, or you can email them at and provide your full name, city, state, and organization.

Enterprise Zones to address Disparities.  Maryland advances a plan using ‘enterprise zoans’ to eliminate health disparities Kaiser Health News reports.

That’s it for this edition . . . have a great final weekend of February!  Congress returns to work next week after a President’s Day recess.  With the payroll tax issue settled and another temporary extension of the physician reimbursement issue (SGR or ‘Doc Fix’) it’s time for the heavy lifting to begin!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Witness Phil Keoghan's Ultimate Journey in ‘THE RIDE’

On February 18, 2012 at 8pm ET/PT, Showtime will premiere THE RIDE, a powerful documentary that features the 3500 mile bike ride across America to raise funds for the National MS Society. Phil Keoghan, the host of “The Amazing Race” and Emmy®  winner, and his fellow riders averaged 100 miles a day traveling from California to New York. 

To celebrate turning 40, Keoghan decided to embark on this once-in-a life journey with this father and work towards raising $1 million for the National MS Society. Tune-in to see his amazing journey that did not come without its challenges, including a trip to the hospital, extreme exhaustion, countless spills, drastic weight loss and a dangerous crash in Ohio that left him bloodied and shaken. The Society thanks Mr. Keoghan for his commitment to moving us closer to a world free of MS!

To learn more, clickhere.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

MS Activist Helps Change Policy at Social Security Administration

In December, we were thrilled to announce that the Society was successful at getting an advanced-form of MS eligible for a fast-tracked application for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), the Compassionate Allowances Program. Yvonne Brown, featured in this article, was instrumental in altering this policy by offering key testimony to the Social Security Administration hearing in March 2011. Since the December announcement, the Society has been working with the SSA to identify an educational process to share background information and the application process for Compassionate Allowances Program. This training will take place in the Spring and will be directed towards internal Society staff including members of the Information and Resource Center (IRC) staff and providers. 

Friday, February 3, 2012

Transportation Security Administration’s Toll-Free Helpline Number Available Year-Around

Traveling anytime soon? Take advantage of the TSA’s new helpline number for travelers with disabilities and medical conditions. The toll-free number is now available year-around to help answer questions about screening policies, procedures and what to expect at the security checkpoints.  Make sure to call 1-855-787-2227 before arriving to the airport! Click here to read the TSA press release.