The second annual National Advocacy Dinner was hosted at Regis University this past Wednesday, April 13, 2016. These dinners are going to be held all over the country between April 13th and May 4th, and are a great way to learn the top legislative issues affecting the PT profession. Furthermore, it’s a great (and easy) way to find out more ways that YOU can make a difference in furthering the profession. In case you missed the event at Regis and were wondering what topics we covered, read on for the recap!
In terms of national legislature, the Federal update was presented by Regis’s own Ira Gorman:
- Medicare Access to Rehabilitation Services Act of 2015 (“Repeal of the Medicare Cap”)
This bill would eliminate the cap on therapy services for those patients with Medicare. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this idea, as PTs, we only get $1960/year for therapy services. But wait—that’s shared with Speech Language Pathology Therapists too! This would help patients with complex cases (ie. TBI, CVA, hip fractures/replacements, etc.) get more of the services they really need. Check this bill out: HR 775/ S 539
- Physical Therapist Workforce and Patient Access Act of 2015 (Loan Repayment)
THIS IS IMPORTANT FOR STUDENTS! In other words, this bill is all about student loan forgiveness. Currently, PTs are not a part of the National Health Service Core, and therefore cannot earn the loan forgiveness that many other health professionals can. With the passing of this bill, PTs would be granted access to the plan when they worked in rural and/or medically underserved areas. This could mean up to $30,000 in two years. As an extra benefit, it’s been shown that when health professionals work in these areas, they tend to lay down roots and stay. This helps to improve communities by keeping quality health care in the area. Check this bill out: HR 2342/ S 1426
- Prevent Interruptions in Physical Therapy Act (Locum Tenes)
This bill was explained as a “technical fix,” in which PTs will have an easier time working with Medicare when a staff goes on a leave of absence (ie. Maternity, travel, etc.). Currently, clinics cannot bring temp PTs in unless they are Medicare certified at the specific clinic. Overall, this is a logistical nightmare when you only need a temp for a week or two. Check this bull out: HR 556/ S 313
Gorman emphasized these three, but also hit on three more important bills. The Safe Play Act would allow PTs medical decision-making abilities in return-to-sport for youth athletes; this bill also promotes safety in youth athletics (with provisions about concussions, heat stroke, and sudden cardiac arrests). Next, the Medicare Opt Out bill is a physician bill that PTs joined in order to work with patients who may have their own private insurance and do not always want to follow through with sole Medicare payment. The bill would allow providers to avoid billing to Medicare and, instead, just bill the patient’s private insurance. The NIH Bill would help fund more rehabilitation research and create a larger focus on rehabilitation topics. Finally, the Telehealth bill would be one step closer for PTs to have a compact license (i.e. One license would allow a PT to practice in any state). Currently PT’s have to have a license for any state their patients may reside in. For example, if your clinic was near state boarders—say, in Colorado but close to Wyoming—you would have to have a license for both Colorado and Wyoming to treat the residents of Wyoming coming to your clinic. The telehealth component plays in when treating patients in other states via an alternative form of communication. (Check out these bills: HR 829/ S436, HR 1650/ S 1849, HR 1631/ S 800, and HR 2948 respectively)
The other top speaker at the dinner was Colorado State Senator, Irene Aguilar, MD. She presented on a state issue regarding the insurance plan Colorado Care (Amendment 69). This measure will be on the ballot in November 2016 and will improve health insurance coverage in the state by creating a single-payer system. Colorado Care would be resident owned, non-governmental healthcare for any Colorado resident. Individuals could still purchase their own private insurance similar to supplemental Medicare, but would still pay for Colorado Care. Premiums would be collected from residents and employers based on income, effectively reducing costs through the elimination of third party administrative costs. However, this means a 7% tax for employers, a 3% tax for employees, and a combine 10% tax for the self employed in order to cover the budget, which is estimated at $25 billion. (Read more at http://coloradocareyes.co/ and http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/12/19/458688605/coloradans-will-put-single-payer-health-care-to-a-vote.)
Now what? Well, as an incoming student, current student, new grad, or current practitioner, it is important to start spreading awareness. The easiest way to do this is check out the APTA take action center (http://www.apta.org/TakeAction/). As a member of APTA, you get access to support any of the current issues with easy, pre-made letters to send to your Congressmen. This is helpful because research shows that Representatives want to know you’re knowledgeable about the bills you’re asking them to support. Heads up, though—they want: to have a constituent reason for your stance on the bill, the specific legislation cited, the bill number, the impact of the bill, and your full name and address.
If you’re looking for a little more action, join PT-PAC (political action committee) or donate money in their name for a more focused contribution. There’s even an app for that! Search APTA Action.
Upcoming Advocacy Events:
June 8-11, 2016 NEXT Conference (Nashville, TN)
Oct 27-29, 2016 National Student Conclave (Miami, FL)
Feb 15-18, 2017 Combine Sections Meeting (San Antonio, TX)
Spring 2017 Federal Advocacy Forum (Washington, DC)
Keep an eye out for our student spotlight on Cindi Rauert, Regis DPT Class of 2017, who spearheaded this event as the SPT Delegate on the Student Assembly Board of Directors.
Blogger: Sarah Campbell, Class of 2017