The National Association for the Advancement of Orthotics and Prosthetics (NAAOP) released its latest webcast in which Peter Thomas, JD, discussed the first-ever Congressional Fly-In to advocate for passage of O&P legislative priorities.
The event, held on December 8, was virtual and designed as a pilot to assess the feasibility of conducting such events in the future, Thomas said. The pandemic has made telephonic visits to Capitol Hill offices much more common, which enabled NAAOP to proceed with this event, he said.
Over 20 board members, NAAOP fellows, and members in key Congressional districts participated in over 30 meetings with congressional leaders. The timing of this advocacy event could not have been better, with Congress poised to pass a massive, year-end spending bill to fund the federal government and debating a major COVID-19 relief package, Thomas said. These pieces of legislation are considered “must-pass” which presents an opportunity to attach O&P-specific bills to this legislative vehicle.
Thomas said NAAOP focused on three issues: passage of the Medicare O&P Patient-Centered Care Act, passage of the Triple A Study Act, and introducing a new issue, the importance of recognizing the medical necessity of prosthetic limbs and other technologies to enable people with disabilities to exercise and remain fit and healthy. NAAOP also highlighted a position statement and policy paper from Nicole Ver Kuilen, NAAOP board member and inaugural NAAOP fellow, on the right of people with disabilities to exercise. The issue received broad support and encouragement to return to the next Congress for further discussion.
In nearly all the congressional meetings, the three issues were well received and there is reason to be optimistic for action on this legislation in the future, Thomas said. However, these bills are not considered linked to COVID-19 and, therefore, not necessary to include in the end-of-year packages. There are so many pressing matters before Congress that several champions of the legislation cautioned that inclusion of NAAOP provisions in year-end bills would be a huge lift, Thomas said.
The Patient-Centered Care Act is bipartisan and has champions on both sides of Congress. A Congressional Budget Office estimate of its cost is not yet complete and this is a necessary step for Congress to proceed. NAAOP confirmed if action is not taken in 2020 to advance that bill, the legislation will be reintroduced in the new Congress in 2021.
The webcast is posted on the NAAOP website.