Have Your Voice Heard

Posted by Marsha Lawrence, PT, CHT on 10/28/2016

I can hardly wait! Less than a week of accusatory television ads, automated pollster calls, snarky tweets and email links forwarded by well-meaning acquaintances certain I will find the disparaging cartoons amusing. Every corner is littered with political signs, as though seeing a name emblazoned on cardboard while being held captive at the light will determine my choices. Every time I think the market for “political analysts” is saturated, a new crop appears on cable news, talking over each other until the commercial break.

According to Nick Hanauer “Politics is friction. The only way you can bend the arc of history is to create that kind of friction…”1 We are definitely feeling the bend… Despite the coarse discourse of the current campaigns, I am really looking forward to voting. I have the opportunity to vote early, but I love the process of showing up at my assigned location, waiting in line, signing my name (showing my drivers’ license-this IS Kansas after all…) and having the white-haired precinct judge, dressed in red, white and blue, peer through her bifocals to try to show me how to use the machine. (Full disclosure here: I also wear bifocals.) There is an air of excitement and expectation and I feel a surge of patriotic pride in performing my civic duty.

Not voting means no matter who wins, when they make a mistake (as they inevitably will), one could say “not my fault — I didn’t pick them,” but in not voting, they really did pick them. “We need better candidates” has been expressed universally, but the fact of the matter is, these are the candidates we chose. By not voting in the primary or attending a caucus, your silence was heard and this was the result. 

The same principles apply to the unending wave of healthcare regulations that have come forward in the past decade. As providers, we are the stewards of our services, and it is our responsibility to “speak up” and educate our legislators on the impact their votes – resulting in the actions of government agencies — have on our ability to deliver high quality care efficiently. It is our duty to insist that our services have value and not allow public or private payers to undervalue our profession. 

To that end, no matter which candidates are chosen, beginning in 2017, ASHT members will have a new tool at their disposal to facilitate communication with legislators on State and Federal levels. In January, ASHT will launch its new Legislative Action Center, available at ASHT.org. This platform will provide our members with a rundown on the issues affecting the provision of hand therapy services and provide position letters and tweets that can be used as is or personalized by you and sent to your legislators with just a click or tap of a finger. There will be no reason to not be involved! You can easily see if your legislators support specific issues and how they voted.  Contact information for their local and federal offices and a list of their legislative aides will also be available. This platform will also allow issues affecting specific states to be highlighted so you can understand the facts and quickly communicate with your local lawmaker. As you might suspect, this service has a cost associated with it, and we will be kicking off a fundraising campaign to finance this addition. If every member contributes $10.50, we will cover the cost for three years – just in time for the 2020 presidential nominee selections.

In the whole scheme of healthcare, our numbers are miniscule, which means our collective voice needs to be thunderous! It isn’t enough anymore to provide the best care for our patients; we have to take a stand for our profession and our patients and become engaged in the processes that impact our care delivery. This new tool allows our members to be heard loud and clear.

ASHT has worked hard to establish communication with the Department of Health and Human Services and CMS. We have responded to CMS with written comments regarding the proposed rules, held a joint Capitol Hill Day with AOTA, had meaningful discussions with representatives of APTA and AOTA about the impact of decisions they are making on the national level. We have additional calls with AOTA and APTA leadership scheduled in the near future to discuss impending procedure code changes. We have reached out to CMS and requested inclusion in the ongoing decision making, and received an invitation to attend their upcoming meeting on measure development for specialty societies. The Practice Division continues to slog through the 2,400-page final Quality Payment Program rule (QPP for all you acronym fans) and is waiting for the release of the final payment rules. All this could change January 20 at noon when a new president assumes office. If it does, the volunteers at ASHT will do everything in our power to keep you informed.

The first step is voting. Read about the presidential candidates’ plans for healthcare on our website or on theirs. Google your representatives and senators to see if they support repealing the therapy cap or expanding payment for lymphedema supplies.  Your choices do count! 

As for me, I am thrilled there is baseball as a diversion this week. (Go CUBS!) And on November 9, I will turn my answering machine back on and be patient with the new barista at my favorite coffee shop – could be a political analyst learning new skills…

  1.  Hanauer N.   http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/civic.html

Accessed online: 10/21/16.

  1. https://www.asht.org/practice/federalstate-regulations/quality-payment-procedure
  1.  https://www.asht.org/sites/default/files/images/Practice/CMS-5517-P_ASHT Response.pdf