The APTA Federal Advocacy Forum is a national conference for APTA members across the country to convene in DC. Its purpose? To educate members of Congress on the role of physical therapy in our communities, with the specific goal of gaining their support for the various legislative initiatives* that are currently being debated in Congress.
A part of my experience during my two-week APTA internship through the Regis University DPT program included the opportunity to attend the Forum. We started out listening to several guest speakers in preparation for our visits on Capitol Hill with the senators and representatives. Brad Fitch from the Congressional Management Foundation (CMF) presented some of the results of a survey about what types of factors impact their decision-making process. Constituents are the citizens that a member of Congress represents, and that includes both providers and their patients. So, it is important for them to know what matters to us! Ideas for getting in touch with them are listed below.
Robert Blizzard, a partner at Public Opinion Strategies, discussed the current political climate–including different scenarios for the presidential race and the outcomes’ implications. We also had the chance to listen to Senator Richard Burr from North Carolina speak. He has been a friend to PT initiatives for a long time. One of the things that has been most refreshing to me to see is that members of Congress really do care about the same issues we care about. Members on one side of the political spectrum may believe in different ways of solving those issues from their colleagues on the other side, but despite that, there is a lot of bipartisan support for the issues we care about. There were also break-out sessions that went into greater depth on key issues facing the profession from a legislative prospective.
On the third day, we embarked with fellow APTA members from Colorado to meet with staff from the offices of our senators and representatives to discuss current legislation. We thanked the members of Congress for their support on legislation they had already co-signed, and we asked for their support on further issues. The Colorado APTA members met with the offices of Colorado’s two Senators: Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet, and also the representatives from different districts. Diana DeGette is the representative from my district, but our group also had the opportunity to meet with representatives from many other CO districts, as well.
I’ll admit it–I was nervous, at first, to speak up in those meetings. It turns out, though, that the staff members are friendly and interested in what we have to say–even as students. It was reassuring to go as a group so that we could chime in and support one other. I felt more and more confident the more I did it! My advice to any PT or student interested in meeting with their elected official would be to review the facts of what you are going to say (and write down information you might not remember easily) so that you don’t have to waste time and energy trying to recall or look up information. Each meeting lasted approximately 10-15 minutes, and it’s surprising how quickly that time goes. Relax, be yourself, and know that nobody is going to bite your head off. 🙂
What can I, as a student or clinician, do to support advocacy at the government level?
As a citizen in this country it is your right–and, arguably, your responsibility–to petition your lawmakers directly to share the personal impact that different legislation would have on you as a current (or future) provider on your patients’ day-to-day life. Start by downloading the APTA advocacy app which will let you know who your elected officials are and which legislative issues are currently relevant to your district/state. In terms of getting in touch with lawmakers, Brad Fitch shared with us some of the ways that we can connect with Congress on issues pertinent to the PT field:
- write emails
- make phone calls
- attend town hall meetings
- make an appointment to visit their local office in person with other PTs or on your own
- follow your legislator on social media and respond to what they post
The more people to reach out, the more impact we can have.
If you are interested in getting more involved in the political and legislative process or have additional questions, feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
*Key issues currently include:
- Therapy Cap: Medicare Access to Rehabilitation Services Act (currently max out at $1940 for speech and PT combined) HR 775 / S 539 more info
- PT Workforce Bill: Physical Therapist Workforce and Patient Access (includes PTs in loan forgiveness program for healthcare providers in underserved areas) HR 2342 / S 1426 more info
- Locum Tenens: Prevent Interruptions in Physical Therapy Act (for Medicare providers to get short-term coverage for their patients when they must take a temporary leave of absence) HR 556/S 313 more info
- Safe Play: Supporting Athletes, Families, and Educators to Protect the Lives of Athletic Youth Act / SAFE PLAY Act (include PTs in the discussion for developing standardized concussion management guidelines) HR 4829 / S 436 more info
- Rehabilitation Research: Enhancing the Stature and Visibility of Medical Rehabilitation Research at the NICH Act (streamlines rehabilitation research, improves coordination between different organizations) HR1631 / S 800
- PTs Travelling with Sports Teams: Sports Medicine Licensure Clarity Act (include PTs along with ATs and physicians in the existing legislation extending the state license of sports medicine providers who travel with a sports team across state lines to treat a traveling team) HR 921 / S 689
- Self-Referral: Promoting Integrity in Medicare Act (proposes removing PT as an exception to the Stark Law, ie prevents Physicians from referring Medicare patients to entities in which they have a financial interest – eg a physician-owned PT service) HR 2914
My name is Katie Baratta and I just graduated from Regis University School of Physical Therapy. I had the opportunity to spend two weeks at the APTA doing a student internship. I was able to talk to many different members of the APTA, attend the Federal Advocacy Forum, and learn more about what the APTA has been doing to move our profession forward. Check in next Tuesday for more!