Giving Voices to Our Women Health Patients: Highlights from the APTA Federal Advocacy Forum
By April Ritz, DPT
First, I want to give a huge shout-out to the Section on Women’s Health for sponsoring me to attend my first American Physical Therapy Association Federal Advocacy Forum in Washington, D.C., March 26-28, 2017.
Second, I’m giving special thanks to Gail Zitterkopf, SOWH federal affairs liaison, for taking me under your wing, showing me the city, and sharing your knowledge.
This was a memorable experience for me. We covered so many issues before heading to Capitol Hill to voice our opinions and to educate our elected officials on the following legislation:
- The Medicare Access to Rehabilitation Services Act (a.k.a., Therapy Cap Repeal, H.R. 807/ S. 253). The Therapy Cap currently limits Medicare patients to a total of $1,980 for speech and physical therapy services. While extensions can be added, this can delay care. The bill has failed to be implemented 16 times since 1997, and extensions have just been added, but the current extension ends December 31.
- Physical Therapist Workforce and Patient Access Act (H.R. 1639/ S. 619). My Representative, John Shimkus is a co-sponsor of this important bill, which would add PTs to the pool of health professionals able to serve in shortage areas (National Health Service Corps). In my district of central Illinois alone, there are 43 health professional shortage areas. Being part of the NHSC also would qualify PTs to be part of the loan repayment program.
- The Sports Medicine Licensure Clarity Act of 2017 (H.R. 302/ S. sister bill). This bill lets physicians, PTs, and athletic trainers travel with their professional or collegiate team across state borders and still practice. Passed by the House of Representatives, it is awaiting Senate approval.
- SAFE Play Act. APTA is trying to standardize protocol for concussion management and return-to-play guidelines for youth athletes. Currently, without standards, most states have a wide variety of rules.
- Lymphedema Treatment Act (H.R. 930). Lymphedema compression garments are not considered Durable Medical Equipment under Medicare, which limits patients’ recoveries and boosts medical costs due to complications from lymphedema.
I know it’s a lot of information, but it would be great if you would contact your state representatives or senators this week. Those of us on Capitol Hill met with or gave an APTA folder to every senator, representative, and/or legislative assistant. Please follow up with them and let them know that you care! They need to hear from their constituents.
Here’s a true story: A representative stopped supporting a PT bill solely because he had not heard from any of his PT constituents that year on the issue. You can use the templates online through the APTA website (http://www.apta.org/TakeAction) or download the PTaction app on your phone. Try to customize it, though, to reflect that you are their constituent and that you support what the APTA stopped in their office to discuss March 28.
I highly recommend attending the FAF or at least your state PT Day on the Hill! We need to realize that if we do not stand up for our profession, we will be in trouble down the road. If not for APTA and PT-PAC, our profession would not have locum tenens, the ability to practice dry needling and many PT-friendly laws and policies. We would be a lot worse off than we are now!
I know our profession is facing a lot of issues, but we need to remember the Section on Women’s Health, APTA, and PT-PAC are fighting for us. To have the greatest leverage, though, we need to donate to the political action committee. As an APTA member, our annual dues are not allowed to go to the PAC, so we need to make an additional contribution to them. I urge you to do so yearly.
If every APTA member gave $20 a year, we would have the largest health professional PAC. This would help us tremendously! Here is a link for you to donate and support our profession for the future: http://www.ptpac.org/support_ptpac. As a side note, you must be an APTA member to donate to the PAC (it’s the law).
Remember the words of Thomas Jefferson: “We in America do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate.”
AUTHOR: April Ritz, DPT, works in outpatient orthopedics and women’s health in Mattoon and Champaign, Ill., for Carle Foundation Hospital. She also works as needed in the acute inpatient setting for HSHS St. John’s in Springfield, Ill.