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Reflections on the Federal Advocacy Forum

by Laura Morris | Apr 13, 2017

Written by recipients of a scholarship to participate in the Federal Advocacy forum:

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Mason T. MacDonald, SPT
University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio
Doctor of Physical Therapy 2017 Candidate
Student Government Association Representative
PT Student-Run Free Clinics Coordinator
TSPTA Nominating Committee Co-Chair

Participating in the 2017 Federal Advocacy Forum was a remarkable experience as a physical therapy student in my final semester of school. My interest in advocacy began early on in physical therapy school as I slowly became more involved with my state chapter (Texas) and local district by participating in conference calls, event planning, legislative days and more. Once I found out that students can become involved with the APTA at the federal level, I knew this would be a highly valuable and enriching experience.

I was definitely impressed with the overall organization and the content delivered at the forum. The speakers were very knowledgeable and the breakout sessions were filled with group discussions that were conducive to critical thinking and problem solving. Health care in the U.S. is a dynamic topic with many moving parts, and our current model for providing rehabilitative care is likely to see major changes in the near future. Attending this event greatly helped me to formulate a better and more comprehensive understanding of the regulatory issues that directly impact the way we practice and, most importantly, patient access to our services. The APTA Code of Ethics states that we must advocate on behalf our patients in order to better meet the health care needs of society, and it is an awesome feeling to know that I have a role to play in this process.

The forum provided me with numerous opportunities to network with other students and professionals who share a similar passion for advocacy. Although it was my first time to attend the forum, I immediately felt welcomed when I got to Washington. It is truly motivating to be surrounded by such an inspired and enthusiastic group of people. The APTA staff and team leaders within our groups also provided helpful tips and strategies before each appointment. I felt more than prepared by the time we marched over to Capitol Hill to speak with legislators, and now that confidence will help me in continuing my advocacy efforts throughout my career as a physical therapist. I came back to Texas with a plan in mind for getting others involved and providing them with tools to help advocate for our patients and this great profession. Several members of Congress have already begun co-signing several of our bills regarding the Medicare therapy cap repeal and the National Health Services Core loan repayment program. Seeing these accomplishments is what really makes all the hard work worthwhile.

As a profession, I believe we have an obligation to advocate on behalf of the patients we serve, and I am truly thankful for the APTA members who work tirelessly to do so. I would like to extend a sincere thank you to the Academy of Neurologic Physical Therapy for selecting me as a scholarship recipient. I left Washington D.C. with a sense of empowerment and a hunger to remain highly involved with the APTA in order to improve patient access to our services. I would highly recommend this event to other students and professionals in this field.

Allison Breakey, SPT
Sacred Heart University Doctorate of Physical Therapy, 2017
APTA Student Assembly Board of Directors, SPT Delegate

#ChoosePT – The Opioid Epidemic and Repealing the Medicare Therapy Cap

It is difficult to pinpoint the most concerning or important national legislative issue within the physical therapy (PT) profession. However, when I truly reflect on my personal journey and the experiences I have had within PT advocacy efforts I am pulled towards a few concepts. 

I have felt the heartbreak of the opioid epidemic and have been personally effected by its devastating impact. Many of my hometown residents have been troubled by the all to frequent prescription opioid addiction that can lead to heroin use and overdose. I have seen many families grieve over the loss of loved ones and want to help influence a solution to this epidemic. One barrier to the opioid crisis is the need for improved physical therapy access across the country. 

One way we as students or professionals of PT can help increase the access of physical therapy access is through advocating for the Repeal of the Medicare Therapy Cap. This will help to increase the use of physical therapy services as an alternative, safe method to pain management. While access is just one of the many issues connected to the opioid epidemic, I believe it is the most far reaching and impactful approach. We can help combat the opioid epidemic while at the same time increasing access to over 1 million Medicare beneficiaries. 

This is also an important legislative topic due to the pivotal timing of this issue as the process to extend the cap will be expiring in December 2017. We were only 2 vote shy of the 60 vote threshold in 2015. I believe if we capitalize on the support of this legislation and continue to advocate for the repeal of the cap we can find a permanent solution to help increase the access to many patients across the country while simultaneously combatting the opioid epidemic. 

Talia Estrada, SPT
DPT Class of 2018 UCF 

Since the passage of the Balanced Budget Act in 1997, Medicare beneficiaries have had their access to physical therapy services restricted due to the infamous and arbitrary medicare therapy cap. This piece of legislation has impeded our profession from providing the utmost care that we deem necessary for our patients in the manner and timelines that is most beneficial. This is of great concern and cause for impact in states in which Medicare beneficiaries are a large portion of the caseload, as in Florida. Since its passage, Congress has put forth many efforts in order to curtail the effects of the cap including implementing the exceptions process. In 2015, physical therapists across the nation could see the light at the end of tunnel with the near passing of the H.R.775/S.539 - Medicare Access to Rehabilitation Services Act of 2015. This bill would have permanently repealed the therapy cap, but sadly only received 58 of the required 60 votes needed to pass the Senate. This issue will undoubtedly be brought before Congress again during the current session and must not be overshadowed by other health care legislation. Repealing the therapy cap has a strong history of bipartisan support and though the work of dedicated physical therapy advocates this should come to fruition very soon. Thank you for allowing me to serve as an advocate for the betterment of my profession and patient care and I greatly appreciate the assistance provided by the Academy of Neurologic Physical Therapy. 



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