APTA's historic advocacy efforts to fight a proposed 9% cut to Medicare payment got the attention of lawmakers — and now it's grabbed the attention of public affairs professionals, whose international association awarded APTA the 2021 "Lobbying Strategy Innovation Award."
The award from the Public Affairs Council recognizes advocacy efforts "that showcase creativity, inclusiveness, innovation, and organizational relevance." All four elements were on fully display during 2020, as the association led a grassroots initiative to battle proposed cuts to Medicare payments that threatened physical therapy and three dozen other professions.
Still a major initiative, APTA's #FightTheCut efforts are rooted in a commitment to large-scale engagement across the profession — including among patients and supporters of physical therapy — to deliver the message that payment reductions of the scale planned by Medicare threaten public health by denying patients access to effective care. The intense grassroots program resulted in more than 120,000 emails being sent to Capitol Hill, and more than 30,000 letters sent to the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, record-high involvement numbers for an APTA advocacy push. And during a pandemic, no less.
APTA facilitated the effort by making it as easy as possible for anyone to join in the effort, including nonmembers, patients, and outside supporters. The association created template letters and emails, held virtual rallies, and sponsored pushes on social media, all with an eye toward removing as many barriers as possible to joining the fight.
Ultimately, CMS moved ahead with the cut as proposed in the fee schedule. However, thanks to the advocacy of APTA members, Congress intervened to lessen the severity of the cut through 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 3.3%. The relief reflected the fact that lawmakers were well-aware of the danger of the cut, thanks to strong advocacy.
Laura Keivel, APTA grassroots and public affairs specialist, says that the fight will continue — not just to regain payment ground for the profession but, ultimately, to ensure that PTs are getting paid what they deserve for delivering patient-centered, value-based care.
For now, however, Keivel is proud of the recognition APTA is receiving on behalf of its member community.
"Our members stepped up to a challenge and participated in ways that truly showed the level of commitment the physical therapy profession has to patient care," Keivel said. "Because of their amazing efforts, we're facing a much different payment landscape than we might've faced otherwise. We have work to do, but the momentum is there."