Written by Guest Blogger, Dan Ignaszewski – Director of Government Relations & Marketing, Amputee Coalition
On March 7–8th 2018, AOPA held their annual Policy Forum in Washington, D.C. to educate legislators about issues affecting O&P professionals, businesses, and patients. The Amputee Coalition has been a long time supporter of the AOPA Policy Forum, recognizing the importance of sharing the O&P industry story and improving patient’s access to care.
Earlier this year the ACA, AOPA, and the O&P Alliance were able to celebrate the passage of the provision of the Medicare O&P Improvement Act. With this provision, O&P clinician’s notes will now be recognized as part of the patient’s medical records in CMS determinations. This is a tremendous success for the profession and for patients, but much more still needs to be accomplished.
Key Legislative Issues Highlighted at the Forum
- Ensuring Veterans maintain the ability to receive care from their chosen provider
- Ensuring O&P care remains an Essential Health Benefit
- Preventing the expansion of off-the-shelf orthoses and competitive bidding
- Advancing regulations that underscore and identify qualified providers for O&P care (BIPA 427)
- Raising awareness and concerns with the 2015 Draft LCD on lower limb prosthetics
- Supporting a consistent fee structure for custom fabricated, direct milled inserts (K0903/A5513)
Day One Overview
On the first day of the Policy Forum, speakers helped prepare attendees for legislative visits. Speakers walked attendees through what to expect in the meetings, how to plan their visits, the various talking points, and the importance of remaining involved in state and federal advocacy priorities.
It was emphasized during this session that these meetings were meant to facilitate larger conversations and that as professionals, YOU are the expert in the room. Attendees were encouraged to share their stories and illustrate the impact O&P has on the continuum of care for the patient, helping them remain independent, mobile, and the able to integrate back into their communities.
Attendees also had the opportunity to support AOPA’s O&P Political Action Committee (PAC). The O&P PAC allows the profession to support candidates that advocate and understand issues that impact O&P clinicians and the patients they serve. This year, the ACA attended the PAC Luncheon and supported Representative Mike Bishop (R – Michigan). Representative Bishop is a key leader in Congress who ensured the language that recognized O&P clinician’s notes as medical records were included in legislation and passed into law. Representative Bishop also attended the Policy Forum and spoke to attendees about the importance of participation, advocating for the profession, and educating legislators about issues that are important. Following his presentation, he took questions from the audience and then concluded with a private reception for those who contributed to the O&P PAC.
Day Two Overview
On the second day, meetings with legislators and their staff went resoundingly well. From those meetings, there were a lot of follow-up opportunities for AOPA and the Amputee Coalition, including getting patients to attend the Amputee Coalition’s Hill Day on April 16th and 17th. The Amputee Coalition’s Hill Day, which follows the Policy Forum, provides an opportunity to reinstate the same message and issues impacting the patient community through meetings with the legislators.
Coming Full Circle
Over the years, significant wins for the O&P industry have developed with the support of these two important events. This year, following AOPA’s Policy Forum, Medicare has already released a ruling in favor of supporting a consistent fee schedule for the custom fabricated, direct milled diabetic foot inserts. These events raise awareness and provide an opportunity to advance these issues to the level where actions can be taken to address them.
Moving forward, AOPA and the Amputee Coalition are encouraging practitioners and patients to get involved in advocacy efforts. The ACA is encouraging providers and paitents to attend the upcoming 2018 Amputee Coalition Hill Day and the 2019 AOPA Policy Forum.
There is still a lot to pursue, including enacting provisions of the Medicare O&P Improvements Act, finalizing the BIPA 427 regulation, and protecting access to O&P care through Essential Health Benefits and the Insurance Fairness for Amputees Act. The ACA will fight to create more transparency and accountability within the LCD process and work to ensure ill informed LCD’s do not negatively impact patient care and healthcare access.
What Can You Do?
It’s important to stay involved with your state associations, AOPA, and the Amputee Coalition and stay engaged in legislative and regulatory issues. Organization’s can’t do it alone and we need your help and support to continue to impact public policy on the local and national levels.
About the Author: Dan Ignaszewski is responsible for developing the positions of the Amputee Coalition on public policy issues; focusing on integrating public policy development with grassroots organizations. Dan works on federal and state issues, including the Amputee Coalition’s primary legislation, the “Insurance Fairness for Amputees Act,” funding for limb loss initiatives, research, veterans’ issues, and other issues affecting the limb loss community. Additionally, Dan works with the National Sponsor Program and the Amputee Coalition National Conference. He also markets memberships and publications for professionals. Dan has been with the Coalition since 2008.