While a pandemic raged, together we faced a terrible challenge: a plan by the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to move ahead with damaging payment cuts to some 37 professions, cuts that are potentially disastrous to patient care. Physical therapy faced a 9% reduction. Congressional action in late December lessened the severity of those cuts, but did not eliminate them.
We made our case. Repeatedly.
Our fight against the cut, which began when it was first proposed in 2019, was carried out on two major fronts: We pushed back against CMS' regulatory proposal, but we also worked to alert and educate lawmakers on Capitol Hill and create a path for a potential legislative remedy.
We kept members informed and engaged every step of the way through news, webinars, email alerts, and virtual rallies. And you responded with needed action!
You were at the heart of a historic push.
Our advocacy efforts were fueled by historic levels of grassroots participation through APTA's advocacy action centers that included more than 120,000 communications sent to Congress, 25,000 comment letters sent to CMS, and 100 legislator meetings and events attended by individual APTA members.
At the same time, APTA pursued every advocacy channel possible, partnering with other provider organizations to amplify our voices, attending more than 450 political events to discuss the planned cut with members of Congress, holding in-person and virtual meetings with federal agencies, and providing comment letters to CMS that pointed out the thoughtlessness of its plan in stark terms.
The end result wasn't what we wanted — but the fight isn't over.
In the end, CMS moved ahead with the cut as proposed in the fee schedule. However, thanks to the advocacy of our members, Congress intervened to lessen the severity of the cut, including in its year-end omnibus spending and COVID-19 relief package an infusion of billions of dollars to the Medicare fee schedule that reduced the average cut to physical therapy payment from 9% to an estimated 3.6%.
While an improvement, the congressional efforts fall short. The viability of providers will be threatened, and patient access to appropriate care will be reduced. As APTA President Sharon Dunn, PT, PhD, wrote, "this relief falls well short of ensuring patient access to needed services."
We must fight on. The good news is, we've already built the momentum.
Together we carried out the most extensive advocacy push in our history, in the middle of a pandemic. And we're a profession rooted in resilience — it's the quality that led to the creation of APTA 100 years ago, and it's just as present today. We can do this, if we continue to stick together and act.