Monday, July 30, 2012


I will apologize up front – this edition got a little long because there’s just so much going on!  Please read to the bottom however – you’ll learn about a recent bill introduction named after a U.S. Representative’s sister who lived with MS.   And remember to forward to whomever you think would find of interest and tell them they can subscribe by sending an email to

UPDATE:  Disability Treaty moves to Senate Floor.  Yesterday the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations marked-up the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and after a few amendments, it passed out of committee with a strong bi-partisan vote of 13 to 6.  We haven’t heard yet when the treaty will be taken up by the full Senate but when we do, we’ll be sure to get the word out.  Thanks to everyone who helped send emails and make calls!  (Photos at left, Senators Kerry & Lugar talking after passage of treaty and at right, MS Activists Phil Posner and Yvonne Brown)

Birthdays!  Well, more like anniversariesMedicare and Medicaid turn 47 next Monday and yesterday was the 22nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (read presidential proclamation).  National Capital Chapter president Chris Broullire and MS Activists represented the Society at a White House sponsored event and later in the day I joined Karen Jackson for an event hosted by Asst. Attorney General for Civil Rights Tom Perez at the Department of Justice that included screening the film Lives worth Living:  The Great Fight for Disability Rights, which is a very moving film about the disability rights movement (that every American should watch in my opinion).  It will be showing on PBS stations soon.  (Pictured above is Asst. AG Tom Perez and at right are MSA Activist Karen Jackson and Paralyzed Veterans of America Assoc. Advocacy Director Lee Page)

Would GOP sweep, sweep away health law?  I’ve pointed out before that since the Affordable Care Act was passed using the budget reconciliation process, that only 51 votes are needed in the Senate to repeal the law.  However, that doesn’t factor in that passing a budget bill isn’t necessarily the easiest thing to do in the first place and that a myriad of other issues could come into play.  See this article for more detail.

Fall out for Chief Justice Roberts.  It has been widely reported that the chief justice changed his position on the individual mandate, siding with court liberals to uphold the linchpin of the Affordable Care Act.  A recent poll shows how his ruling has impacted his standing among the public.

Will you pay more taxes because of ACA?  According to this article, few people (as a percentage of the population) will actually end up paying more in taxes to cover costs associated with the health law.  Plus, the president announced that he views the individual mandate not as a tax or a penalty, but more as a ‘principle’.

Former Sen. Maj. Ldr. Bill Frist, MD, on Exchanges.   The former GOP leader recently had this to say in an opinion piece:  “Originally a Republican idea, the state insurance exchanges mandated under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will offer a menu of private insurance plans to pick and choose from, all with a required set of minimum benefits, to those without employer-sponsored health insurance.”

Ten Things You Didn’t Know Were In The Health Law.  Kaiser Health dug through the Affordable Care Act to unearth ten items you likely didn’t know about then the ACA became law.

1 in 4.  According to a new study by Families USA, one in four Americans has a pre-existing condition which means that pre-health reform, up to 25% of Americans could have been discriminated against due to that condition.  Of course, this includes people living with MS.

New ‘score’ shows ACA to save $84 billion.  The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) scoring  also showed that if the law is repealed it would add $109 billion to the deficit over 10 years.  While the $84 billion looks good, it’s actually due in large part to the prediction that approximately 3 million Americans won’t be eligible for the  Medicaid expansion in those states opting out.  Currently 13 states are cutting Medicaid benefits due to budget woes.  A former CBO director believes that the law won’t save any money and that it will in fact add $70-$82 billion to the deficit arguing that the CBO methodology was essentially flawed.  [NOTE:  The Society’s overall strategy on Medicaid expansion is being reviewed and a separate communication including additional resources will be sent to Chapter staff.  One external resource is the Webinar mentioned in the box below.]

Evidence-based research – a bad thing?  A U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee apparently thinks so because it voted to zero out funding for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the bill "prohibits any patient-centered outcomes research and all economic research within the National Institutes of Health".  AcademyHealth issued this statement/action alert.  (Note – it is extremely unlikely that provisions like this would make it through the Senate much less be signed into law.) 

Issue brief on status of health exchanges in 3 states.  The Commonwealth Fund this month issued a brief detailing the status of health exchange development in Colorado, California, and Maryland.

All you need to know about the ‘fiscal cliff’ (but didn’t know you needed to know).  The Washington Post has a really easy to understand piece on the various components (Bush tax cuts, payroll tax cut, ACA, ‘doc fix’, etc.) involved in the so-called fiscal cliff and the impact of certain scenarios on economic growth and/or deficit reduction or growth.

The number of uninsured – how big is 50.7 million?  The New York Times put out some comparisons to give perspective on the number of uninsured Americans.  For example, our uninsured population is 1.5 times the population of Canada, equal to the population of 25 American States, and roughly equal to the number of people who voted for George Bush in 2000.  See more here.

Will Sequestration really have an impact?  You be the judge – in a June 29, 2012 letter to Congressman Ed Markey, HHS says that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) may have to cut up to 2300 new and existing research project grants based on the overall 7.8% reduction in HHS budget should sequestration take place. 

Medicaid ‘Donut Hole’ on the horizon.  Given that Medicaid expansion is optional, states opting out of the expansion will leave millions of Americans in a new gap or hole because they would neither qualify for Medicaid in their states under current rules nor be eligible for subsidized private insurance in new state health exchanges.

Health Affairs webcast on ACAHealth Affairs recently hosted a daylong meeting that was also webcast and is now available online for viewing should you be interested.  key policymakers and analysts will examine the Supreme Court's decision and its implications for the implementation of health reform. Co-chaired by Donald Berwick and Mark McClellan, the conference explored the next steps in expanding coverage; the repercussions of the Court's decision for Medicaid expansion; plans for carrying out insurance reforms and setting up insurance exchanges; and ways to improve health and health care, while getting better value for the dollars we spend.

Just the Facts please.  Business Week produced a graphic highlighting the 54 bills Congress has sent the President, labeling the legislative branch the ‘do-a-lot-of-nothing-Congress’ – I’m not passing judgment, just relaying factual information!

‘Mini-Med’ warning.  Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman recently issued a warning to consumers about mini-med policies, what to watch out for, and how to tell if it’s legit.  This is likely a concern in the other states as well.  Read his press release.

The bill for Debt Ceiling fight.  Remember all the fighting last summer about the federal debt ceiling finally resulting in the ‘Budget Control Act’ and the infamous supercommittee?  Well, all that haranguing isn’t cheap:  the government racked up an additional $1.3 billion in borrowing costs while the White House and Congress duked it out.

Society Supports new Auto-Immune legislation.  New York Representatives Ann Marie Buerkle and Carolyn Maloney introduced legislation to create a federal, inter-departmental coordinating committee focused on auto-immune diseases.  In the ‘dear colleague’ circulated by Rep. Buerkle she discusses her sister living with MS and the bill is actually named after her sister.  The Society has emailed the Congressional MS Caucus urging that they co-sponsor the bill.

Senator Murray raises awareness of MS.  In a recent press conference discussing the debt, Senator Patty Murray (Wash.) talked of the struggles her family faced growing up because of the impact of her father’s MS.  Her stay-at-home Mom had to not only be the caregiver to 7 children, but not to her husband as well AND become the breadwinner. 

Flying with a Disability.  The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has a new toll-free helpline number, 855-787-2227, to provide information for passengers with disabilities and medical conditions and their families before they fly. They recommend calling 72 hours in advance to learn what to expect at security checkpoints. They will also be able to coordinate your security screening ahead of time when they know about your disability.

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