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Stroke Advocacy Network Newsletter


Medicare Therapy Services Threatened Again

image of Medicare cardOnce again, the end of the calendar year is approaching and Congress still hasn’t reauthorized, or extended, the Medicare therapy caps exceptions process. This is important because this process is used by roughly 640,000 Medicare beneficiaries each year, including some stroke survivors, to obtain the additional therapy services they need to recover to their fullest potential. Under current law, the exceptions process is set to expire on Dec. 31, 2012, unless Congress takes action. You can help National Stroke Association ensure that these therapy services remain available to stroke survivors on Medicare by taking action today.

Why do these caps exist in the first place? In 1997, Congress sought to control Medicare spending, in part by capping the amount of money each beneficiary could spend on physical, occupational and speech therapy services in a given year. However, Congress soon realized that many Medicare beneficiaries needed more therapy services than these program caps allowed. This is especially true for stroke survivors, since stroke is one of the leading diagnoses among people who have exceeded the therapy caps.

To resolve this problem, Congress created an “exceptions process” that allows Medicare beneficiaries who reach the caps to appeal to the Medicare program for more services. However, this process is not a permanent part of the Medicare program. Congress must occasionally vote to reauthorize, or extend, it. Historically, they have done this without controversy. However, Congress came dangerously close to letting it expire in 2012.

Now, as the next expiration date approaches, it’s time to urge your members of Congress to once again take necessary action to extend the exceptions process and make sure that critical therapy services are available to stroke survivors on Medicare. It only takes a minute to make your voice heard and support all the stroke survivors who rely on Medicare to provide for their recovery.

Lame-duck Session: Why It’s Important

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With the election behind them, Congress is heading back to Washington, D.C., to wrap up a long list of unfinished legislative business that requires action by the end of the year. This is commonly referred to as a “lame-duck session.” While this type of session seems like an afterthought, it’ll be an important one for the stroke community.


Normally, a lame-duck session includes a handful of noncontroversial items that are slated to expire at the end of the calendar year. However, this session is likely to be contentious because the remaining items are tremendously controversial. They include the extension of the “Bush-era” tax cuts, continuation of the payroll tax cut and continuation of other tax issues typically labeled as “tax extenders.” Another issue left on the table for this session is sequestration, which involves setting funding levels for federal agencies, departments and programs. This includes agencies such as the National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). Read more about how NINDS funding may be affected by the sequestration discussion during the lame-duck session.


Medicare Therapy Services

Lame-duck Session

Congressional Briefing

World Stroke Congress

Stroke Champions

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Another issue likely to impact the stroke community involves preservation of the Medicare therapy caps exceptions process. This process helps roughly 640,000 Medicare beneficiaries, including some stroke survivors, obtain medically necessary therapy services to ensure they can recover to their fullest potential. If Congress doesn’t act during this session, access to some therapy services will be eliminated, causing some stroke survivors to forego or delay care or have to pay for those services out-of-pocket. Read more about this threat to Medicare therapy services.

Though it’s difficult to say how Congress will proceed on these issues, it’s clear they have a significant amount of work to do. In any case, this lame-duck session is shaping up to be one of the more interesting in recent memory.

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Congressional Briefing: Stroke, Women and Afib

On Sept. 11, 2012, National Stroke Association partnered with WomenHeart to host a congressional briefing on atrial fibrillation (Afib) and stroke in women in honor of Atrial Fibrillation Awareness Month in September. The briefing focused on the increased risk of Afib and stroke in women because more women have strokes than men do and Afib is a major stroke risk factor. Read more about this briefing and find out if your members of Congress participated!

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SAN Presents at 8th World Stroke Congress

Judi Johnson at the World Stroke CongressThe Stroke Advocacy Network was honored to present in the poster session of the 8th World Stroke Congress held in Brasilia, Brazil, last month. This event brought together healthcare professionals to collaborate, learn new skills and learn about advancements in stroke prevention, management and rehabilitation. Judi Johnson, who serves as a member of the Stroke Advocacy Network advisory board, attended the event and presented our poster.

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Celebrate Your Stroke Champion

Photo of Elijah with his momWhether your stroke champion is a survivor, caregiver, family member, friend or even a medical professional, this year you can let them know how much they mean to you while raising awareness and vital funds for stroke.

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