Congress has until February 8 to act on funding the federal government, and between then and now, APTA, its members, patients, and other organizations are making sure that legislators and their staff receive an earful on the need to include a permanent repeal of the Medicare therapy cap as a part of any agreement.
Here's a quick rundown of what the association and others have been doing to call attention to therapy cap repeal and other crucial health care issues left unresolved by Congress.
APTA members make a difference
The association's members continue to deliver the kind of grassroots advocacy that can grab the attention of legislators, with more than 15,000 member emails sent to Capitol Hill, along with nearly that many sent by nonmembers who support repeal of the cap. In addition, more than 20,000 emails have been sent by patients and non-member supporters through APTA's Patient Action Center, a resource that makes it easy to take action on the cap.
At the same time, members and their patients enthusiastically responded to APTA's call for patient videos urging Congress to repeal the cap. Those videos are being featured on APTA's Facebook page, and will be used as APTA staff and volunteers continue the push for repeal up to the February 8 deadline for congressional action.
Multiple organizations, 1 voice
In addition to its work with the Therapy Cap Coalition, which includes the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) and the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA), APTA has joined forces with other organizations by signing on to 2 letters to members of Congress.
On February 1, APTA announced that it has joined more than 70 national provider organizations in urging Congress to reauthorize and fund multiple health care programs and policies, including action on the therapy cap. Participating organizations include the American Nurses Association, the American Psychological Association, the Child Welfare League of America, and the National Association of County and City Health Officials.
“These programs and policies are core to this country’s health care and essential to ensuring that patients have access to the care they need,” said APTA CEO Justin Moore, PT, DPT, in an APTA news release. “We are better together, and APTA did not hesitate to sign on to this letter in hopes that Congress will hear us and take swift and decisive action not only to provide a permanent fix to the therapy cap, but to also address these other critical issues impacting our health care system.”
The association also joined 50 other organizations, including the Alzheimer's Foundation, the Brain Injury Association, MedStar Health, and the National Rural Health Association, in a letter to Congress urging action on multiple Medicare fronts.
"We write on behalf of some of the most vulnerable Medicare seniors, disabled, and critically ill patients across America who are now facing serious health consequences if Congress does not pass a Medicare package soon," the letter states. "Now that we are well into 2018, Congress' inaction on these important Medicare policies could mean real harm to the vulnerable patients we serve."
AARP and the Therapy Cap Coalition meet the press
AARP, a longtime supporter of therapy cap repeal, joined representatives from APTA, AOTA, and ASHA to take the repeal message directly to the press.
During a February 1 press conference, AARP spokespersons made the case that time is quickly running out for beneficiaries—many of whom are elderly—who are subject to the $2,010 cap on what AARP Executive Vice President and Chief Advocacy and Engagement Officer Nancy LeaMond described as "vital services."
"Two thousand dollars doesn't go very far for these treatments," LeaMond said. "And seniors need them after a stroke or a fall to talk, walk, or do other everyday tasks."
Justin Elliott, APTA's vice president of government affairs, added that access to therapy also allows patients to pursue nondrug approaches to treatment.
"The caps impact a wide spectrum of patients needing rehabilitation services, from patients who are recovering from a stroke or traumatic brain injury, to those who are suffering from chronic and often painful conditions and would prefer to choose therapy to address their pain instead of taking opioids to mask it," Elliott said. "Patients cannot hit the pause button on their rehabilitation as they wait for Congress to fix this problem."