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  • PTs, PTAs, Students Bring the #PTTransforms Message to Capitol Hill During Federal Advocacy Forum

    When it comes to issues such as repeal of the therapy cap, opportunities for student loan relief, and the ability of a physical therapist (PT) to bring in another qualified PT during absences, the halls of Congress may be just a little more physical therapy-informed than they were this time last week. But then, what do you expect when more than 250 PTs, physical therapist assistants (PTAs), and students from 46 states meet face-to-face with hundreds of legislators and staff?

    The meetings were part of the APTA Federal Advocacy Forum, held April 3-5 in Washington DC, a yearly event designed to educate participants on hot legislative issues and creative outreach ideas, as well as provide an opportunity for in-person advocacy on Capitol Hill.

    For their advocacy with legislative offices, participants came ready to discuss a wide range of topics related to physical therapy but placed particular emphasis on 3 bills:

    • Repeal of the Medicare therapy cap (HR 775, S 539)
    • Passage of a workforce bill (HR 2342, S 1426) that would add PTs to the list of professionals who qualify for the National Health Services Corps, and meet the needs of underserved areas (and, thereby, possible student loan repayment by the federal government)
    • Passage of a "locum tenens" bill (HR 556, S 313) that would include PTs among the health care providers who can bring in another licensed physical therapist to treat Medicare patients and bill Medicare through the practice provider number during temporary absences for illness, pregnancy, vacation, or continuing medical education.

    In addition to the day of lobbying, forum attendees participated in sessions on alternative payment models, the CMS Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement bundled care model, advocacy through social media, and the role of student advocacy. Guest speakers included Sen Richard Burr (R-NC), Congressional Management Foundation CEO Brad Fitch, and Robert Blizzard, an expert in public opinion research. The forum also took time to honor Tim Schell, PT, with this year's APTA Federal Government Affairs Leadership Award.

    "Lawmakers really do listen to what their constituents have to say, which means that advocacy works best when legislators and their staff hear directly from the people affected," said Michael Matlack, APTA director of congressional affairs. "The physical therapy profession is fortunate to have so many people who are committed to improving care through advancing the profession, and the work of our members during the forum is a direct demonstration of that commitment."

    Want to get a feeling for what it's like to participate in an APTA Federal Advocacy Forum? Check out highlights in the storify below—and then make plans to attend next year's forum.


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