This year’s Policy Forum not only provided an ample setting to advocate for patients on Capitol Hill, but it also provided “a much-needed opportunity for all to come together and do this face to face,” said George Breece, executive director of the National Association for the Advancement of Orthotics & Prosthetics (NAAOP). “Bravo to AOPA and their great staff,” he said.
It was the first time the event was held in person since May 2019.
During this year’s Policy Forum, Robin Seabrook, executive director of the National Commission on Orthotic and Prosthetic Education, was recognized with the NAAOP Leadership Award. Seabrook, who has been with NCOPE for 35 years, was honored for her exemplary service to the O&P profession at the O&P student’s breakfast.
One of AOPA’s goals this year was to have the attendees focus more on the reasons why they felt it was important to participate than to the logistics, said Joy Burwell, director of communication and membership for AOPA. “We did of course focus on logistics too but wanted to make sure they could connect their story to the legislation.”
On day one, participants prepared for their visits to members of Congress. On the second day, attendees split up into small groups to meet and share their stories with individual senators and representatives and staff members and deliver their requests that lawmakers sign on to co-sponsor the Medicare Orthotic and Prosthetic Patient-Centered Care Act—H.R. 1990 and S. 2556. Passage of the bill, among other O&P priorities, would help distinguish durable medical equipment from clinical, service-oriented O&P care in the Medicare statute and regulations, leading to recognition of the clinical care O&P practitioners provide; and limit the definition of off-the-shelf orthoses to devices that truly require only minimal self-adjustment by the beneficiary.
“O&P is a small part of healthcare, providing critical clinical services for millions of Americans living with limb loss and limb difference. Unfortunately, because of the way the system is designed, not only is there a big burden placed on O&P providers, but they are often not compensated or acknowledged for all the care provided to patients,” said Eve Lee, AOPA’s executive director. “During AOPA’s 2022 Policy Forum over 100 O&P advocates, including patients, came together to ask their members of congress to support the Medicare Orthotics and Prosthetics Patient-Centered Care Act. This legislation addresses the burdens O&P providers experience so that they can more easily provide safe, effective, patient-centered care.”
Those attending Policy Forum last month participated in 84 meetings on Capitol Hill, Lee said. “To date those meetings have resulted in two additional co-sponsors, and we expect more,” she said.