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A Weekly Publication of the Department of Government Relations  Week of March 1, 2010 
In This Issue
President's Health Reform Summit
SGR Short-Term Extension Filibustered in Senate
APA Testifies before House VA Committee
Regulations Issued on Mental Health Parity Law

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APAPAC Events 

3/1 - 6:00 p.m. - Medical PAC Community event with Democrat campaign staff 

3/2 - 4:30 p.m. - Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA) Meet & Greet
3/3 - 8:00 a.m. - Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA)
3/3 - 6:30 p.m. - Rep. Richie Neal (D-MA)
3/3 - 8:00 p.m. - Rep. John Sullivan (R-OK)

DGR Telephone: 

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President's Health Reform Summit
On Thursday, February 25, President Obama, together with Vice President Biden and key administration officials including Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, hosted 38 lawmakers from both parties and both chambers of Congress to discuss health reform. The six-and-a-half hour meeting at Blair House was carried live on C-SPAN and other networks, as well as via webcast. Participants discussed four topic areas: Cost Containment; Insurance Reforms; Deficit Reduction; and, Expanding Coverage.  
Complete summit coverage can be accessed through CSPAN at
SGR Short-Term Extension Filibustered in Senate
On February 24, the House passed H.R. 4691, legislation that extends a number of expiring federal programs for 30 days, including current Medicare physician payment rates, which would once again postpone the 21 percent cut that was scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2010.  The Senate attempted unsuccessfully on the night of February 25 and the morning of February 26 to pass the same bill by unanimous consent, but objections were raised by Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY), who demanded that the $10 billion cost of the program extensions be offset, despite the fact that procedural rules specifically allowed the physician payment exclusion to take place.  The Senate adjourned for the weekend, so the 21 percent Medicare physician payment cut will be effective on Monday, March 1.
In a bit of good news, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) are notifying their contractors to hold Medicare physician claims for 10 business days, effective March 1, to give Congress time to approve a long-term postponement of the 21 percent SGR cut.  The agency will also be sending out a similar message on its various list serves this afternoon to physicians, and contractors will be instructed to disseminate this information as well. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) continues to work with Senator Bunning to lift his hold but if Bunning refuses to stop his filibuster, Reid will have to file cloture to shut down the debate and push action on the bill to midweek. Bunning is the only Senator opposing the extension.
APA Testifies before House VA Committee
On February 25, Annelle Primm, M.D., APA's Deputy Medical Director of Minority Affairs testified before the House Veterans Affairs Committee. The Committee invited the APA to share its position on the effectiveness and safety of psychiatric medications and the importance of research and access of care for veterans, returning military service members and their families.  Dr. Primm emphasized that in many cases, psychiatric medications can best be utilized in conjunction with therapy.  Dr. Primm rebutted contentions by other wintesses that antidepressants "caused" suicides.
Regulations Issued on Mental Health Parity Law
On January 29, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Labor and the Department of the Treasury issued the long-awaited regulations implementing the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA).  There were many clear victories in the rule, including a requirement that health plans have a single combined deductible for mental health/substance use disorder treatment and medical/surgical treatment and a statement that discriminatory application of "non-quantitative" treatment limitations, such as prior authorization and step-therapy is also a violation of the law.  APA strongly advocated for these areas to be covered in the regulations.  There are still several unanswered questions and areas where the Departments have asked for further input.  DGR will be working with the Office of Healthcare Systems and Financing (OHSF) and key councils to develop comments in response to the rule and urge further clarification.