Being an active advocate in an election year is easy to do and can be very impactful. Lawmakers and candidates are eager to talk to potential voters, especially community leaders such as you. Through advocacy you can educate policy makers, then ask for their help improving payment and reducing administrative burden so you can focus on providing physical therapy care to members of your community. Your ability to build rapport with your lawmakers could impact the laws they pass. This summer and fall is prime time for you to meet up with them to reinforce their understanding of the important role you play in the local economy. With each engagement, you enhance a candidate’s understanding of the unique value of physical therapy provided in a small-business, private practice setting.
Please call both your incumbent legislator and the opposing candidate’s local offices this week and follow up with an email to request a meeting with your Member of Congress or the candidate when they are in town next. This could be in August or sometime this fall. Customize your communications by filling in the blanks and following the prompts in red:
“Hello, my name is ___________. I am a voter, small business owner, and physical therapist. I’m calling to request a meeting with Representative/Senator __________/(candidate’s name). Thank you.”
You may be told the Member or candidate’s schedule is full. If so, ask when you can meet with the local staff and offer 2 or 3 dates and times that work for you. Offer a site visit to anyone in the lawmaker’s office.
If you get their voicemail, leave the following message:
“Hello, my name is ___________. I am a voter, small business owner, and physical therapist living/working in [town]. I’m calling to request a meeting with Representative/Senator __________/(candidate’s name) when they are next in town. My email is _____________, my cell phone number is _________. I look forward to hearing back from you so we can set up a time for me to come meet with them. Thank you.”
“Dear Representative/Senator __________/(candidate’s name);
I am a voter, small business owner, physical therapist, and member of APTA Private Practice. My ___-person practice is located in [town]. [#] percent of my patients are Medicare beneficiaries.
I am writing to request a meeting with you, Representative/Senator __________/(candidate’s name) when you are in the area this summer or early fall. I understand that your schedule is very busy during election season, but I hope you can spare a few minutes to meet with me to discuss the important role physical therapy plays in the local economy, health care and wellness, as well as the role federal laws play in ensuring access to care.
I look forward to hearing back from you so we can set up a time for me to meet. Thank you.
Cell phone number
Address of practice in the Congressional District/state”
In addition to scheduling in-office meetings, there are many other ways to engage with those running for office. You can attend rallies, town halls, and community meetings and introduce yourself to their staff (be sure to hand them your business card). If you feel comfortable, consider volunteering for a campaign or attending a fundraiser—both great ways to meet anyone running for elective office. Check out the “Advocacy in Action” article in the August issue of Impact for more details and ideas.
Once you schedule a meeting with your legislator, candidate, or their staff, check out the Nuts and Bolts of Lobbying for tips on how to conduct the meeting. Be sure to bring print-outs of the issue one-pagers to leave behind. Ask to take a picture at the conclusion of the meeting then post that picture, tagging the candidate or Member of Congress, along with a “thank you for meeting with private practice physical therapists #PPS Advocacy” message to your social media. If you have any questions, please reach out directly to Alpha Lillstrom Cheng, the Section’s lobbyist.
BACKGROUND AND TALKING POINTS FOR MEETINGS:
If you need to be away from your practice, are there enough credentialed physical therapists in your clinic to ensure that all of your Medicare patients are still able to receive care without delay? If not, then your practice and your patients would benefit if you were able to hire a locum tenens—a qualified substitute physical therapist—to fill in for the short time you are not able to be in the clinic.
As a result of the success of using telehealth to provide services during the pandemic, there is genuine bipartisan interest in maintaining this type of care. The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2022 included an extension of the current Medicare coverage for rehabilitation services provided by therapists and therapist assistants via telehealth. As a result, Medicare beneficiaries treated by private practice physical therapists, physical therapist assistants (PTAs), occupational therapists, occupational therapy assistants (OTAs), and speech language pathologists will retain coverage for care provided to them via telehealth for additional 151 days (approximately five months) of after the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) expires.
As you know from the May 2022 Advocacy in Action article, we are attempting to reduce the impact of the therapist assistant differential with the passage of the bipartisan Stabilizing Medicare Access to Rehabilitation and Therapy (SMART) Act (H.R.5536). Enactment of this bill would provide financial support for outpatient therapy clinics and protect Medicare beneficiary access to physical and occupational therapy by designating PTAs and OTAs working in rural and Medically Underserved Areas as exempt from the 15% payment differential. H.R.5536 would also require Medicare to change its supervision requirement of therapy assistants in private practice settings from direct to general supervision. In addition to reducing administrative burden, this change would better align with state law and result in a general supervision requirement for PTAs in 44 states.
Be sure to ask your lawmakers to cosponsor each of these crucial bills, if they haven’t already. Follow up your meeting with an email that includes one-pagers for the issues you discussed. If you have yet to host them for a site visit, invite your legislator and their staff to visit your clinic to see physical therapy in action, as well as an opportunity for them to meet potential voters.
Resources Are Available:
Thank you for your continued advocacy! Have a great time engaging with your lawmakers and the candidates!