By now, it shouldn't be news that the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has released a proposed 2022 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule that's disappointing for PTs and PTAs. As things stand, significant payment cuts are in the works, as is the rollout of a flawed plan to pay 15% less for services delivered by PTAs.
With the proposal published and CMS requesting comments on it, and while members of Congress are becoming increasingly (but not sufficiently) aware of the damage the proposal could do if it’s adopted without any mitigation or changes, now's the time to engage with decision-makers, speak up, and prepare for future advocacy. Here are three important ways to do just that.
1. Take Advantage of Congressional Recess to Meet With Your Representatives
Members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives head to their home states and districts during the August congressional recess, which means more opportunities to meet in person and advocate for policies important to the physical therapy profession and its patients. It's important to educate lawmakers as soon as possible, because congressional action may be the only way to ease some of the harmful elements in the proposal, and there’s a limited time frame.
And while you can (and should) use APTA's Patient Action Center to contact members of Congress, in-person communication can be key, according to Laura Keivel, APTA grassroots and political affairs specialist.
"Be on the alert for a townhall or other public meeting, or find out if your legislator is holding visit hours at their home district office," Keivel says. "Be prepared to state your case as directly and succinctly as possible, but don't miss out on an opportunity for an in-person conversation." Keivel says the best way to find out about availability is to sign up for your legislators' newsletters or follow their social media accounts.
APTA can help you refine your message. Just email us at email@example.com.
Keivel adds that your message becomes more powerful if you've already formed a relationship with lawmakers — something that APTA can help facilitate when you become a "key contact." The APTA key contacts are volunteers who serve as the primary contact with their senators or representative, and often develop working relationships with them along the way.
Another opportunity for direct conversations with policymakers: After the recess ends, join us in-person for APTA Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill, set for Sept. 14 (with a mandatory training session on Sept. 13 from 4 – 6:30 pm ET). This one-of-a-kind event partners you with other physical therapy advocates to take in-person meetings on Capitol Hill with your members of Congress and their staff.
2. Let CMS Know What You Think About the Proposed Fee Schedule. Right Now.
This one's easy. CMS is accepting comments from the public on the fee schedule, and APTA has made it simple with template letters and online action centers that do a lot of the work for you.
At this stage, the way you choose to submit comments may depend on whether you're a PT or PTA, and which issue — the payment cuts, the differential, or both — is most pressing.
If you're primarily concerned about the differential: Visit APTA's Regulatory Action Center and follow the instructions for customizing one or more template letters that you can upload or copy-and-paste to the CMS comments page (we guide you through the process). You can comment on the differential only, on the entire proposed rule including the differential — or both.
If you're primarily concerned with the payment cut: APTA's Patient Action Center offers a way to make your voice heard that takes fewer than two minutes—and it addresses the differential, too. Quick and easy and sent where it needs to go.
And if you think these individual comment letters don't matter, think again, says Kate Gilliard, senior regulatory and policy affairs specialist for APTA.
"CMS really does pay attention to the comment letters it receives, especially if they receive significant numbers that seem to be advocating for the same thing," Gilliard said. "It's one of the most important ways to highlight pressing policy and regulatory debates."
The template letters allow you to customize details to better share the ways that the cuts will personally impact your ability to provide care to your patients — another key element, according to Gilliard.
3. Stay Connected and Ready for the Fight Ahead
"The next few months are a crucial time for the profession — not just in terms of CMS' call for comment, but in our advocacy around possible congressional intervention on the cut and the differential," says Justin Elliott, APTA vice president of government affairs. "It will be extremely important for our community to stay connected and involved, ready to act on short notice to effect change."
The best way to keep up? Join the APTA Advocacy Network. It's free and keeps you informed with special legislative updates and — extremely important in the current environment — action alerts when your voice is needed.