The RehabCare Advocacy Network of therapists and our government relations team traveled to Capitol Hill last week for the 2014 AHCA/NCAL Congressional Briefing to discuss patient access to medically necessary therapies. The combined services of physical, occupational and speech therapies have the opportunity to provide significant savings to the Medicare program by reducing the risk of rehospitalization and improving functional abilities, but the provision of therapy continues to be threatened by regulatory measures such as Part B therapy caps, changes to group and concurrent therapy, coding changes and the application of the Medical Manual Review (MMR) and Multiple Procedure Payment Reduction policies. Our Advocacy Network was founded in fall 2013 to mobilize our clinicians and enable them to directly share with policy makers the experiences and issues that are critical to the recovery of our patients.
Through the course of six meetings last week, RehabCare members from across the country met with lawmakers at the AHCA/NCAL Congressional Briefing to discuss the potential consequences of these annual reforms and rules that affect rehabilitation. RehabCare visited the staff members from the offices of Senator Bill Nelson, D-FL, Senator Bob Casey, D-PA, Senator Bob Menendez, D-NJ and Senator Debbie Stabenow, D-MI – all of whom serve on the important Senate Finance Committee. The team also met with staff for the Senate Finance Committee and the Senate Committee on Energy and Commerce – both of which have jurisdiction over the Medicare program.
Our therapists explained the impact of therapy caps on patient care and how arbitrary caps can limit access to necessary treatment as well as hinder preventative care – and they also had the opportunity to thank the Senate offices for their continued support of therapy services. They were able to convey that a lack of understanding of the therapy caps by patients and their families often lead a patient to prematurely discontinue treatment out of concern that payment for care may be limited. Our team continues to advocate for a full repeal of the therapy cap as part of a permanent doc fix.
The RehabCare Advocacy Network members were able to provide first-hand accounts of the significant administrative burdens that have been the unintentional outcome of several recent legislative and regulatory updates. Increased paperwork and the introduction of new codes require extensive training and instruction surrounding new policies that are not always imminently clear.
By participating in events like the Congressional Briefing, the RehabCare Advocacy Network is providing a platform for our engaged and well-educated therapists to help influence rehab legislation and regulation. Our goal is to provide tools, resources and critical up-to-date information to RehabCare therapists in order to enable them to become more actively involved in advocating for their profession with legislators and associations.
The Advocacy Network of therapists, program directors, clinical performance specialists and others has grown to nearly 500 members since its inception and continues to expand. The first action of the network involved inviting team members to contact their members of Congress through our partner association, NASL. These efforts contributed to a short-term extension of the Part B Therapy Cap exceptions process and the inclusion of draft language to improve the MMR process within the larger “doc fix” legislation that is actively being deliberated by policy makers at this time. Our therapists also flew to Washington in April to participate in the APTA Federal Advocacy Forum. A similar event is being organized for OTs and SLPs in the fall, and the RehabCare Advocacy Network plans to send our therapists later in the year.
RehabCare employees who wish to join the Advocacy Network may do so by contacting Barbara Wallace at firstname.lastname@example.org or clicking here to register. Members will receive communications about our ongoing efforts and information about how to lend their voice.