Monday, April 16, 2012


Now back to our regular Federal Fridays - as you can imagine there have been huge swings of speculation about what the Supreme Court will do after the three days of oral arguments a couple of weeks ago.  A few interesting items are noted below.  Please share Federal Fridays with friends and colleagues and anyone wanting to be added to the email list should email  And be sure to follow us on twitter @MSActivist.  And if you’re interested in learning more about effective social media strategies, check out this article.

Health Reform & the Supremes.  Well there were three days of very interesting oral arguments and Q & A on the health reform law with several possible scenarios emerging including one that would once again result in discrimination against women.  ‘What’s next’ is a common refrain however there are so many possible implications of any Court ruling that it’s hard to predict.  If you want to partake in the guessing, feel free to read the oral arguments posted on the Court website.  The insurance mandate is central however there are many other health-related mandates in federal law already.

‘Judicial Activism’.  When a court or judge essentially ‘makes’ law rather than advising that a legislative body take action it’s known as judicial activism.  Reagan administration attorneys are concerned that the Roberts Court may be entering a period of activism which causes them and others concern.  Should the Court have a negative ruling on the ability of Congress to use the powers of the purse (a.k.a. coercion) to compel states to take an action (Medicaid expansion), that would have a truly profound impact.  Several states are vocally supporting the expansion.

SCOTUS Can’t Stop Health Care revolution.  Very interesting piece in the Washington Post focused on health system changes occurring with our without the health law, with a particular focus on the Cleveland Clinic.

ACA State Milestones.  The Robert Wood Johnson foundation has published a document of milestones for 2012 under the Affordable Care Act.  You can see it here.  Most states are taking action to implement reforms already and the Commonwealth Fund has an interactive map of the U.S. so you can see how your state is doing.

Prescription Drug Benefit/Essential Health Benefits.  The National MS Society joined 100 other organizations in a letter to HHS Secretary Sebelius with concerns about the prescription drug coverage standard outlined in the HHS bulletin issued in December 2011.

Pro-Bono Dental Care.  The National MS Society has endorsed legislation that leverages pro bono dental care for those who cannot afford it, including many with MS.  Without proper care, more serious illness can develop and infections can occur that exacerbate diseases.  HR 4091 and S 1878 - Coordination of Pro Bono Medically Recommended Dental Care Act was introduced by Rep. DeGette and Sen. Menendez.

High Cost of Drugs.  The New York Times has an article about the high cost of prescription drugs and what some are trying to do about it.  It references legislation by Rep. David McKinley (WV) to eliminate the fourth specialty tier.  Our office has met with McKinley’s staff offering support and assistance, but also advising that as drafted, the legislation wouldn’t necessarily address the cost issue since insurers could simply wrap fourth tier medications into the third tier and adopt a co-insurance in that tier.  The National MS Society advocacy staff and volunteers work aggressively on this issue and have had varying degrees of success across the country limiting out-of-pocket costs via insurance coverage.  

Biosimilars – will they bring drug costs down?  We actively supported the biosimilars provision of the Affordable Care Act yet this article explains why bringing them to market won’t necessarily have the dramatic impact on cost that generic drugs had.  The article indicates that savings would likely be in the 20% range and while that may not seem like a lot, 20% of a big number multiplied by the number of people using the medication = a really big number!

Sequestration & the NIH.  There was a report released recently highlighting what will happen at the National Institutes of Health should Congress allow the budget sequestration take effect on January 1, 2013.

Employer Approach to providing Health Insurance.  Some employers are taking a much greater ‘hands on’ approach with employees, requiring medical tests in advance of providing coverage, requiring smoking cessation, nutritional changes, etc.  Read more.

‘Death & Taxes’.  Ben Franklin’s quote about the only certain things in life are death and taxes is apparently more true than even he knew.  Check out this story, and be careful this weekend!

Congressional MS Caucus grows!  We now have 30% of the U.S. Senate and 34% of the U.S. House of Representatives as Members of the MS Caucus – thanks to everyone who has helped to get their elected officials to join!

Vets & MS.  Veterans living with MS tend to have higher prevalence of chronic illness according to this article.

Couple met in Hospital, both with MS.  As part of NPR’s Storycorps featured a couple—both of whom have MS—who met each other while receiving treatment and have now married. It’s a great story - I encourage you to take a few minutes and read/listen.

Bunnies and Research.  Don’t worry, I’m not going to get into a conversation about use of animals for medical research!  Just thought you’d be interested to know that Americans will have spent approximately $16,800,000,000 ($16.8 billion) on Easter this year.  That amount would fund MS research at the NIH ($122 million/year), DOD ($3.8 million for CDMRP) and the National MS Society ($40 million/year) for 101.8 years.  I’ll be a young 150 year old by about then!

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