Friday, June 26, 2009

In the News: Agreement Reportedly Near on Health Bill

Senate health-care negotiators said yesterday they were closing in on a $1 trillion health-care bill that would be fully funded by tax increases, Medicare cuts and new penalties for employers who do not offer health insurance.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said members of the panel would consider a menu of policy and financing options over the Fourth of July recess, with the goal of producing a deficit-neutral 10-year bill shortly after Congress returns July 6. "We're getting a lot closer to an agreement," Baucus told reporters after the committee reviewed new Congressional Budget Office cost estimates yesterday....

The Senate health committee is considering a separate reform bill, but the finance version is crucial because it will include provisions to pay for the subsidies and tax incentives that Congress is seeking to expand. Lawmakers have been struggling for weeks to reach agreement on those issues, and an array of contentious proposals remain on the table.

This is an excerpt from a June 26 article in the Washington Post by Shailagh Murray and Lori Montgomery. Read the full article here.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Announcing National MS and Parkinson's Disease Registries Act

Registry Would Collect Accurate MS Data and Risk Factors

Thank you to all MS activists who have been pushing for a national multiple sclerosis registry. Senator Byron Dorgan (ND) on Tuesday introduced legislation that would for the first time establish a national coordinated system to collect and analyze data on multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease — the National MS and Parkinson's Disease Registries Act (S. 1273).

Many of you have expressed concern about whether the current numbers accurately reflect the MS community. Ask your Senators to support the MS registry legislation. Click here and enter your ZIP to take action.

This legislation would establish separate registries for MS and Parkinson's disease at the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).The epidemiological data collected and analyzed through the MS registry will provide a foundation for evaluating and understanding MS issues such as geographic clusters of diagnosis, genetic and environmental risk factors, variances in gender ratio, disease burden, and changes in health care practices. Read more here (pdf).

Thank you for being an MS activist. Join the movement at

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Help Include Follow-On Biologics in Health Care Reform

Four of the six multiple sclerosis treatments are biologic drugs that cost between $16,500 to more than $30,000 per year. Biologic drugs are produced from living cell cultures rather than synthesized chemically as in traditional drugs. No generic (or follow-on versions) of biological therapies are available because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not yet have the authority to review those drugs.

Congress must pass legislation in order to create a regulatory pathway for the FDA to approve safe and effective follow-on versions of biologic drugs. As Congress prepares health care reform legislation, now is the time to make a difference.

Take Action!

  • Click here to send your Member of Congress an e-mail to encourage them to include legislation for follow-on biologics in the broader health care reform package.
  • Mention the Promoting Innovation and Access to Life-Saving Medicine Act (H.R. 1427 and S. 726) as an ideal model for this legislation.


The FDA does not have the authority to review applications for generic or follow-on alternatives to biologic drugs like other counties do. Because no generic versions of these drugs exist, the cost of biologic treatments can keep them out of reach for those who need them. More affordable follow-on versions could provide safe alternative treatment options and help alleviate the cost burden on families living with chronic diseases.

Legislation to introduce a competitive pathway for follow-on biologics can help spur new innovation within the medical research field. With affordability being a key component in the health care reform debate, it is necessary to contact Members of relevant committees and encourage them to include follow-on biologics in the comprehensive health care reform package.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Aggressive Timelines for Moving Health Care Reform

Comprehensive health care reform is expected to move through Congress before the August recess. President Obama has indicated that he wants the bill on his desk by October. Aggressive timelines have been set in the House of Representatives and the Senate, and legislation is expected on each Chamber floor for debate and potential votes before the August recess.

Just this week, the "Affordable Health Choices Act" was introduced in the Senate under the leadership of Senators Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Ted Kennedy (D-MA). The House committees with primary jurisdiction over health care reform (Energy and Commerce, Ways and Means, and Education and Labor) also released a draft outline of a health care reform bill likely to move through that chamber over the next couple of months.

Both proposals include provisions important to people with MS, including: prohibiting insurers from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions; subsidized premiums for low and middle class families; long-term care support, and; caps on total out-of-pocket spending. It is important to point out both proposals also provide the choice of maintaining existing coverage.

While the Senate and House legislation will differ in detail, there will be many common themes, such as: the establishment of a National Health Exchange; a requirement for individuals to obtain health insurance; the availability of subsidies; working to eliminate pre-exiting conditions, and; eliminating lifetime caps in insurance policies.

Stay tuned as we continue to follow the progress of comprehensive health care reform in Congress.