Federal Legislative Issues Update - November 2010
The November 3, elections dramatically changed the balance of power here in Washington D.C., giving Republicans a strong majority in the House of Representatives and cutting into the Democratic majority in the Senate. With several elections yet to be determined Republican gains currently stand at 63 seats in the House and 7 seats in the Senate.
Following the electoral tsunami, Congress returns for a critical “lame duck” session to address critical, time-sensitive issues.
While the 112th Congress is set to begin in January, Congress has yet to address the Medicare Part B Outpatient Therapy Caps, which will come back in full on January 1, 2011 unless Congress takes action. With few legislative days remaining in the “lame duck’ session of the111th Congress and several contentious issue up for possible consideration, including immigration reform, budget deficits, and earmark reform it is imperative that we keep advocating for immediate action to prevent implementation of the therapy caps. AOTA continues to work in concert with other stakeholder groups and our champions on Capitol Hill to address this critical issue but we need your help!!! Your advocacy is more important than ever!!!
To coordinate our advocacy efforts AOTA is planning a virtual hill day during the lame duck session to urge immediate action on the therapy caps will be calling on the entire occupational therapy community to visit AOTA’s Legislative Action Center to Stop the Cap! The dates of the virtual days have not been set but watch for notices on AOTA’s website.
Advocacy in the 112th Congress
The 2010 election was held on Tuesday, Nov. 2, with 37 of the 100 seats in the Senate being contested and all U.S. House seats up for election. After a historic number of victories, Republicans will control at least 239 seats in the House of Representatives in the next Congress, eliminating the strong 255-178 seat majority enjoyed by the Democrats during the 111th Congress. 7 seats remain undecided.
In the Senate the Democratic majority will remain with at least a three seat margin. Democrats will hold 53 seats to the Republicans' 47 even though one race remains undecided in Alaska, where write-in candidate Lisa Murkowski looks like the likely victor over Republican Joe Miller. Both Murkowski and Miller would caucus with the Republicans giving that party 47 votes in the Senate.
All the new faces coming to Washington D.C. bring a number of new advocacy challenges, and opportunities making grassroots advocacy a key component of our efforts to protect and advance the interests of occupational therapy and the clients we serve. With over 80 new Republicans joining the House majority alone, it is critical to begin educating new members about occupational therapy and to establish positive relationships with new members and their staffs.
To assist in our advocacy efforts AOTA urges you to share any relationships with or knowledge aboutnew or returning members of Congress that you may have. Contact from consitutents—such as you—can make all the difference in developing a relationship and these relationships can be key when working on issues critical to the profession and our clients. Please forward any information you have or let us know if you are interested in being a key advocate in your district or state by contacting FAD@aota.org
Medicare Physician Fee Schedule Rule Released
The final version of the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule, including the Multiple Procedure Payment Reduction Policy (MPPR) first proposed in June was released on November 2, 2010. AOTA’s advocacy work achieved partial success in reducing the originally proposed MPPR cut from 50% to 25%, reducing the expected impact on therapy payments from $500 million to $250 million,We will continue to explore every possible avenue to remove these arbitrary cuts to essential therapy services. Additional information regarding the Physician fee schedule rule and the MPPR is available here.
AOTA worked diligently to oppose this proposal, drafting official comments, working in a broad coalition of stakeholders to oppose the rule and conducting a series of meetings with key policymakers at federal agencies and on Capitol Hill. Letters were sent by a strong bi-partisan group in both the House and Senate urging CMS to reconsider their proposed cuts. View the letter from 68 members of the House of Representatives to CMS Administrator Donald Berwick here: http://www.aota.org/News/AdvocacyNews/Oppose.aspx
AOTPAC MOVE TO THE END
American Occupational Therapy Political Action Committee (AOTPAC)
AOTPAC is still working to reach its 2010 goal to raise $250,000. We still need to raise $65,000 to reach this goal. November 2 elections bring many new faces to Washington who need to know about occupational therapy. We need all AOTA members to contribute to help us continue our work to protect OT. Contributions of any amount will help us support our friends and build new relationships as we approach the new Congress in 2011.
AOTPAC supported a bipartisan slate of candidates for the 2010 elections and will be looking to support new faces as we approach the 112th Congress. AOTPAC welcomes recommendations for federal candidate support from AOTPAC contributors, so if you would like to make a recommendation, please send an e-mail to email@example.com and tell us who and why we should support. Visit the AOTPAC section of AOTA’s home page for additional information and to contribute today.
Health Care Reform
The implementation of the Affordable Care Act continues to play a leading role on AOTA’s advocacy agenda. AOTA continues to monitor, identify and address issues critical to the profession especially by responding to requests for input by the federal agencies, such as the Department of Health and Human Services. AOTA has submitted comments on issues such as the description of rehabilitation and habilitation, denial reviews, and the design of preventive benefits. AOTA has consultants working with us to work with organizations such as the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, who are playing a key role in designing benefits under the new health care plans. See the correspondence at (healthcare reform highlights)
AOTA will continue to actively engage on key issues throughout the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Visit AOTA’s Legislative Action Center and Regulatory policy pages (www.aota.org) to keep up to date with the latest on implementation of the Affordable Care Act and what is happening on Capitol Hill. Also see AOTA’s new Health Reform Spotlight to follow AOTA’s comments on regulatory and implementation activities as health reform continues to unfold.
Medicare Physician Fee Schedule
Over the past year Congress has passed several short term extensions to stave off the 21.3% cut to the Medicare provider fee schedule that was scheduled to be implemented on January 1, 2010. The latest short term fix is scheduled to expire this month on November 30, 2010, which is further complicated by the limited number of days Congress will be in session after the mid-term elections and when the Republicans will take the majority in the House of Representatives in the 112th Congress. The current lame duck session has the potential to exacerbate gridlock on the Hill. Intense grassroots advocacy will be necessary on all of these critical Medicare issues.
AOTA is working in coalition with other groups to secure a long term solution for these proposed fee schedule cuts and to ensure Congress acts before these cuts go into effect.