Big push to get SAAAVE Bill passed

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The SAAAVE bill aims to provide a one-time ultrasound screening benefit for at-risk Medicare beneficiaries to detect abdominal aortic aneurysms. SAAAVE stands for “Screen Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms Very Efficiently”. The hope is that enough pressure will be generated by physicians and members of the public to get the bill passed in 2005.

The SAAVE bill was introduced at a packed press conference in the U.S. Capitol Building on June 23, 2004. At the event, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), pointed out the large number of American lives that could be saved by discovering aortic aneurysms prior to rupture. His comments were amplified by Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY). Rep. Gene Green (D-TX) and Rep. Jim Greenwood (R-PA) are the primary House sponsors for the bill. Rep. Green also spoke in strong favor of the bill at the press conference, while Rep. Greenwood sent his regrets as he was invited at the last minute to travel with the President.

In order to help pass SAAAVE, SVS founded the National Aneurysm Alliance (NAA), a coalition of medical specialty societies, foundations, and industrial partners. NAA society members include the American College of Surgeons, the American Society of Echocardiography, the New England Society for Vascular Surgery, the Society for Diagnostic Medical Sonography, the Society for Interventional Radiology and the Society for Vascular Ultrasound. Foundation members include the American Vascular Association, the Vascular Disease Foundation, and Aneurysm Outreach, Inc. Industrial partners are Boston Scientific, Cook Group, W.L. Gore, Cordis, Medtronic, Medical Metrx Solutions, the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, Philips, Siemens and SonoSite, Inc. Administrative infrastructure is provided by Bill Sarraille and Pat Morrissey of Sidley Austin Brown & Wood LLP in Washington, DC.

The SVS reported in their December newsletter that ten U.S. Senators and more than twenty Representatives are fully committed to helping pass SAAAVE. This is a solid start, but a huge amount of work remains to be done.

On December 3, the NAA members met in Washington to plan strategy for the 109th Congress, which will convene in January. It is a sobering thought to consider passing a Medicare benefit when the federal deficit is burgeoning, but in addition to preventing thousands of unnecessary deaths, SAAAVE has the opportunity to reduce emergency surgery and critical care costs.

In 2005, the SVS and NAA are seeking grassroots physicians’ help in terms of letters, phone calls, and visits to your Representative and Senators. You can find more about this campaign and the status of the Screening Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Very Efficently Act of 2004 (SAAAVE), introduced by Senators Dodd and Bunning and Representatives Greenwood and Green, on their website (www.ScreenAAA.org ).

Another public health advocacy organization that is promoting AAA screening is the American Vascular Association

One of their initiatives is a national screening program that provides free patient screenings for major vascular diseases.

At ISET Hugh Beebe reported that, so far, the screening program had been carried out in 60 centers in 22 states. 3,103 people had been screened and 84 AAA found (2.8%). For information about giving to the American Vascular Association, please contact Sarah Murphy, 312-202-5605, smurphy@vascularsociety.org.

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