Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Road trip?

I can't seem to add pictures - and don't know why. Oh well.

I recently received an email announcing AOTA's Annual Capitol Hill Day Kick-Off. I went to this event last year and am now deciding if I will participate again this year.

The primary issue I discussed last year was the legislation to repeal the Part B cap on therapy services. My senator's aide agreed that this was an important issue to residents of New York State but asked us if we had approached CMS with this issue. As a group we explained that this was an issue that had to be addressed legislatively, and I am not entirely convinced that the aide had a full understanding of this issue. She expressed that Part D Medicare legislation was on the forefront of all health care legislation for the upcoming session and she expressed sincere doubt that any other Medicare legislation would come to the floor for a vote prior to the Part D legislation being addressed. Now we see that there is a cap exception process - and from an end-user perspective I haven't seen any people really harmed by the way the whole issue turned out. Part D really did overshadow everything else at the end of last year, which made it hard to find any remaining oxygen in the room for the cap issue.

Last year we also discussed HR 3022 about OT as a qualifying home health service - this bill needed a Senate companion bill. The aide appeared interested to hear that this is a cost-saving measure which could eliminate unnecessary referrals for other services when occupational therapy is the only service required. She stated that she would review the information that we provided to her. I don't know that this issue has gone anywhere in the last year.

The aide seemed very aware of the 75% rule legislation, which my senator was already co-sponsoring. We took the opportunity to thank her for supporting this Act.

The aide seemed aware of occupational therapy because she met with another contingent of occupational therapists from New York State in the week prior to our visit. I believe that our visit was a positive opportunity for the aide to hear these issues for a second time. So although our visit was not well coordinated with other occupational therapy groups, at least we sent them a consistent message over a couple different visits.

I strongly encourage all occupational therapists to become more involved in the political process and to communicate regarding important issues to their representatives.

Constructive criticism can be useful, so I offer some freely to AOTA. Last year I was sorely disappointed in the lack of overall coordination and promotion of this event. After the event it was very difficult to even find any information about our lobbying efforts on the AOTA website. Also, I don't recall seeing anything published about the event. However, AOTA did publicize the visit that the AOTA President made after the actual event. The ‘One Minute Update’ that I received in email on 10/24/05 described the AOTA President’s meetings and included some quotes on how important it is for occupational therapists to participate in the process. I believe it would have been more accurate to report that the actual Capitol Hill Kick-Off Day was poorly coordinated and that it was not attended by either the AOTA President or a representative of AOTPAC. Sadly, the efforts of several dozen occupational therapists during the planned lobbying event did not merit much acknowledgement or publicity by AOTA. I hope that they change that this year - it will help to get more people involved.

This negative aspect is far outweighed by the positive experience I had in participating in this process. Although I only met with one representative, I appreciated the opportunity to learn the process of setting up appointments and presenting information to a representative’s office. I also appreciated the opportunity to drop off important educational materials to the representatives that were not able to meet.

I look forward to continuing my participation now that I experienced this and gained important perspectives on how to effectively deliver information to my representative’s offices. Anyone care to join me in a trip this year?

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