Advocating issues important to the physical therapy profession and its patients isn't strictly a solo endeavor for APTA. While the association's individual voice is crucial, it's also important to understand that there's power in numbers.
That's where APTA's work with other groups comes in. In addition to our ongoing, APTA-only efforts to support needed change on Capitol Hill and elsewhere, we're also actively engaged with other groups — professional associations, patient advocacy groups, issue-based organizations, and more — to join forces around shared concerns.
“Collaboration and coalition building is part of APTA’s advocacy efforts aimed at Capitol Hill and the Administration,” said Justin Elliott, APTA vice president of government affairs. “Having a united voice with other providers and patient groups on a wide variety of issues is critical to amplifying our message and building momentum.”
This involvement can take many forms, but one of the most common is the sign-on letter. It's an effective way to let legislators, policymakers, and others understand that the decisions they make can affect more than a single constituency — and that multiple organizations, each with its own membership reach, are watching.
Participation in these group efforts is an ongoing process that provides another tool in our pursuit of the APTA Public Policy Priorities. Just how ongoing, you ask? Here's a sample of some of the communications we've joined over just the past four months, by general topic area.
Post-Acute Sequelae of SARS-CoV-2
To: Widely distributed to federal policymakers
From: 52 provider, patient, and issue-based organizations
The position: We are calling for quick federal action to address the crisis of COVID-19 PASC, sometimes referred to as "long COVID," including the development of a national crisis plan and formation of a federal commission to identify barriers to receiving care.
From the letter: "Due to the high infection rate in the United States, 3-10 million Americans are likely to experience the varied and often debilitating PASC symptoms, preventing them from fully recovering and America from restoring economic stability. A comprehensive federal plan is needed to defeat this national crisis."
Physician Fee Schedule Cuts
To: U.S. Senate and House leaders
From: 63 provider and patient groups
The position: Organizations representing over one million health care providers are calling on Congress to provide $3 billion in additional funds to CMS to offset expected reductions in code values for three dozen professions.
From the letter: ”Our medical practices, therapy clinics, and practitioners must remain viable, so our nation can fully recover from this pandemic and continue to provide high-quality care focused on engaging patients, increasing the delivery of integrated, team-based care, expanding chronic disease management, and reducing hospital admission/readmission rates for beneficiaries residing in the community as well as those in long-term nursing facilities."
Health Equity and Social Determinants of Health
To: Leaders of U.S. House and Senate appropriations subcommittees on labor, health and human services, and education
From: 133 national organizations
The position: We joined other organizations in supporting an appropriation of $153 million to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for its Social Determinants of Health Program within the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
From the letter: "Given appropriate funding and technical assistance, more communities could engage in opportunities to address social determinants of health that contribute to high healthcare costs and preventable inequities in health outcomes."
To: U.S. Senate and House leaders
From: 13 members of the Rural Health Action Alliance
The position: The alliance advocated that lawmakers focus more attention on the needs of rural residents and providers in the battle against the coronavirus pandemic.
From the letter: "To help curb the devastation caused by COVID-19 and help deploy the vaccine to all corners of the United States, the undersigned members of the RHAA call on Congress to build upon the December appropriations and COVID-19 relief package to pass more, needed relief for rural providers."
To: HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky
From: 79 provider, patient, and issue-based organizations
The position: We joined in a call for sufficient funding of a COVID-19 public health response that prioritizes communities of color and tribal communities.
From the letter: "The disparities in burden of COVID-19 infection, hospitalization, and death are troubling, and insufficient demographic data masks the full extent of these disparities. Compounding these inequities is the historical and current lack of resources directed to the communities and neighborhoods that have been hardest hit."
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
To: National Institutes of Health
From: 26 members of the Disability and Rehabilitation Research Coalition
The position: We combined voices to respond to an NIH request for comment on advancing and strengthening DEI in the biomedical research workforce, and advancing research in health disparities and health equity.
From the letter: "DRRC urges NIH to recognize the intersectionality between race and disability in its efforts to advance equity, diversity, and inclusion within all facets of the biomedical research workforce and expand research to eliminate or lessen health disparities and inequities."
Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Discrimination
To: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
From: The Consortium for Citizens With Disabilities
The position: We joined in a consortium-generated response to an HHS request for comments on discrimination on the basis of disability in various HHS programs, as well as other issues including a Trump administration addition to the Affordable Care Act that made headlines for its discriminatory effects related to sexual orientation and gender identity. The policy was reversed by the Biden administration on May 10.
From the letter: "We urge HHS to issue a new proposed rule reversing the harmful rule implementing Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act issued by the Trump Administration. While the new rule has received a great deal of attention for its misinterpretation of the law concerning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, it also misinterprets the law in many other important respects."
School-Based Services and Services to Children
To: U.S. Senate and House Leaders
From: 40 members of the Consortium for Citizens With Disabilities
The position: We signed on to a consortium letter pushing for more attention to the needs of children with disabilities in the next coronavirus relief bill, including supplemental funding to the IDEA Act and strengthening a grant program to address teacher shortages.
From the letter: "The level of need — in education and other sectors — facing our most vulnerable communities across the country cannot be overstated. It is imperative that Congress take swift action to respond to this need and invest in programs that will help early intervention providers, educators, children with disabilities, and families navigate this pandemic."
To: House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education
From: 163 provider, patient, and issue-based organizations
The position: Organizations have come together to advocate more support for school mental health and other specialized instructional personnel, including efforts to address workforce shortages.
From the letter: "In order to support the increased need for comprehensive mental and behavioral health services, and the availability of school-based mental health professionals, it is necessary to continue to provide robust federal investments to help high needs districts recruit and retain well-trained, highly qualified mental health professionals."
To: U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
From: 50 provider and issue-based organizations
The position: We pressed for CMS to update its Medicaid School Health Technical Assistance Guide and Administrative Guide to make it easier for schools to access Medicaid funds.
From the letter: "As districts and communities grapple with the profound impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on children, it is imperative that schools meet the critical health care needs of children. It is time for CMS to take decisive and meaningful steps to improve this program and ensure that school districts are able to effectively bill Medicaid."
Home and Community-Based Services
To: President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris
From: 352 provider, patient, and issue-based organizations
The position: We signed on to share our support for the Biden administration's Build Back Better Infrastructure Plan; specifically, for $450 billion targeted for Medicaid home and community-based services.
From the letter: "As infection rates continue to remain high and the economic fallout of the pandemic further challenges people’s ability to afford basic necessities, older adults and people with disabilities face even more difficulties accessing essential supports with no guarantee of the services they need."
To: U.S. Senate and House leaders
From: 237 provider, patient, and issue-based organizations
The position: We're joining with other groups to urge additional funding for home and community-based services, including funding to help support the home and community-based workforce.
From the letter: "In the midst of a pandemic, our funding priorities have thus far not strengthened the ability to stay safely at home, and largely ignored the workforce that is key to preventing people with disabilities and seniors from being forced to stay in institutions."
To: Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education
From: 43 members of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities
The position: We joined with fellow consortium members to advocate for a $50 million addition in the Assistive Technology Act to increase patient access to needed devices.
From the letter: "The (Assistive Technology) Act programs are one of the few disability programs to not receive any additional funding in the COVID relief and stimulus bills enacted thus far to support the increased demand for their direct services, and the programs are in dire need of additional financial support. Funding the AT Act at $50 million would allow all programs to provide the full breadth of services required by the law, and also address the needs surfacing due to the COVID pandemic."