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January 24, 2007


January 24, 2007


ATS and US COPD Coalition Host Hill Briefing on COPD

Last week, the ATS hosted a briefing to educate Congressional staff about COPD, its causes, symptoms, treatments and policy steps needed to improve the lives of patients with COPD.  Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID), co-chair of the Congressional COPD Caucus opened the briefing by commenting on how poorly recognized COPD is by the general public and describing how COPD needs to be viewed as a public health challenge in the United States. 

Featured at the briefing was NHLBI Director Elizabeth Nabel MD who presented NHBLI’s COPD public education campaign “Learn More, Breathe Better” to Congressional staff.  Joining Dr. Nabel at the briefing was US COPD Coalition Co-chair David Mannino MD, COPD clinical expert Bart Celli MD and COPD patient Mrs. Elsa Anders.


Pulmonary Rehabilitation Legislation Introduced in Congress

In related news, Senator Crapo announced at the Hill briefing that legislation was introduced in both the House and Senate to establish a pulmonary rehabilitation benefit in the Medicare law.  The Senate bill (S.329), introduced by Senators Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) and Mike Crapo (R-ID) mirrors the legislation introduced in the House of Representatives (H.R. 552) sponsored by Representatives John Lewis (D-GA) and Chip Pickering (R-MS). 

In his letter of support for the pulmonary rehabilitation legislation, ATS President John E Heffner, MD notes that this legislation will, “help improve health and well being of millions of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other respiratory conditions.  We look forward to working with you to enact this important legislation.”

The ATS Washington Office will coordinate advocacy efforts with sister organizations to move this high priority legislation forward.

CMS Public Comment Pulmonary Rehabilitation Coverage Ends Friday

Also related to pulmonary rehabilitation, the public comment period for CMS National Coverage Analysis for pulmonary rehabilitation under Medicare ends on Friday, January 26th.  CMS opened the NCA at the request of the ATS, ACCP, AACVPR and NAMDRC.  These organizations have for several years petitioned CMS to create a national coverage policy for pulmonary rehabilitation.

The ATS and our sister organizations will submit comments on the pulmonary rehabilitation NCA.  Our comments will strongly encourage Medicare to establish a national coverage policy for pulmonary rehabilitation.  Additionally the joint comments will address the following questions raised by CMS:  

  • What is an appropriate definition of pulmonary rehabilitation;
  • What are the components of pulmonary rehabilitation;
  • Is pulmonary rehabilitation conducted similarly in all settings;
  • What are patient outcomes for pulmonary rehabilitation?
  • Is there adequate evidence, including clinical trials, for evaluating health outcomes of pulmonary rehabilitation in the Medicare population?


ATS Joins Amicus Brief in Tennessee Valley Authority Clean Air Case

This week, the ATS joined the American Lung Association in a federal court case concerning enforcement of clean air standards.  The state of North Carolina (NC) is suing the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) for emitting ozone/particulate matter pollution that is adversely affecting the health of NC residents.  The Clean Air Act permits one state to sue entities in other states for emitting pollution.  What makes this case interesting is the TVA is quasi-federal agency.  TVA is stating that as a federal entity they are immune from this kind of action and have moved that the case be dismissed.

The progress of case hinges on whether the courts view TVA as a "federal entity."

The amicus brief filed by the ATS and ALA encourages the court to let the case proceed and outlines the serious adverse health effects resulting from the TVA power plant emissions. 

ATS Circulates Sign-On Letter Supporting Stricter Ozone Standard

The ATS, in coordination with other clean air advocacy organizations, is circulating a physician and scientist sign on letter to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, encouraging the EPA to issue a proposed standard for ozone that: 

  • Reduces the eight-hour primary ozone standard to a range between 0.060 and 0.070 ppm
  • Closes the "rounding loophole" which allows areas with concentrations up to 0.085 ppm to escape regulation under the current standard of 0.08 ppm

The ATS has coordinated the sign on effort to this letter with colleagues at American Lung Association and Environmental Defense.  To date, over 60 physicians and scientists have added their name to the letter.

If you are interested in adding your name to the letter calling for a stricter EPA standard on ozone, contact Gary Ewart (gewart@thoracic.org) by Friday, January 26th. 

Points of Contact

Gary Ewart Senior Director, Government Relations
Nuala Moore Senior Legislative Representative
Joe Kirby DC Office Administrator