Thanks in large part to your efforts, the American Orthotic and Prosthetic Association (AOPA) secured several legislative victories in 2019, positioning us to achieve even more success in the second session of the 116th Congress, which convenes on January 7. Our victories included:
- In May, Congress introduced the Wounded Warrior Workforce Enhancement Act which would authorize $5 million per year for three years to provide limited, one-time competitive grants to qualified universities to create or expand accredited advanced education programs in prosthetics and orthotics. AOPA has been working closely with both the Veteran’s Affairs Committee and Armed Services Committee to speed passage of the bill in 2020.
- Related to workforce shortages, AOPA worked with the Military Construction and Veteran’s Affairs Appropriations subcommittee to add language to their FY2020 spending bill which “directs the VA to work with outside industry experts to survey and examine the latest data available on the current extent of orthotics and prosthetics care provided outside of VA facilities and provide projections on requirements over the next decade based on overall population growth among veterans with orthotics and prosthetics needs.” The subcommittee has requested a report to both the House and Senate by June, and AOPA is working with VA staff to provide input to the report.
- AOPA secured a bipartisan letter, led by Reps. Elaine Luria (D-VA), Tim Walberg (R-MI), Greg Steube (R-FL), and Brad Wenstrup (R-OH), to the Chair and Ranking Member of the House Veteran’s Affairs Appropriations subcommittee, urging the subcommittee “to include language to let veterans with limb loss continue to choose to receive their care from the provider who best meets their needs.” In the final bill language, the subcommittee noted that the VA is “expected to ensure veterans continue to receive the prosthetics services that best meet their needs,” and will continue to work with the VA to ensure veteran’s choice of where they receive their care.
- AOPA worked with Congress to secure a 50 percent increase (to $15 million) in the Department of Defense’s funding bill for the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP) to advance research in prosthetic and orthotic outcomes, and priorities for research to fill those gaps. AOPA will work closely with CDMRP to ensure they’re receiving high quality grant proposals and funding the best available research opportunities.
November 22, the House introduced H.R. 5262, the Medicare Orthotics and
Prosthetics Patient-Centered Care Act. While the bill enjoys broad
bipartisan support, it’s imperative that we add as many cosponsors as
possible, to illustrate the importance of the bill to legislators. To
that end and with your help, nearly 1,100 advocates wrote to their members of Congress in support of the bill. A high priority for AOPA, this bill would:
- Restore congressional intent by revising the overly expansive regulatory interpretation of the meaning of “off-the-shelf” (OTS) orthotics to clarify that competitive bidding may only apply to orthoses that require minimal self-adjustment by patients themselves, not the patient’s caregiver or a supplier.
- Distinguish the clinical, service-oriented nature in which O&P is provided from the commodity-based nature of the durable medical equipment (DME) benefit. Orthotics and prosthetics care include a patient care component that is decidedly more in-depth and personal than simply supplying DME. Most orthotic and prosthetic devices are custom fabricated or custom fit and require the expertise of an orthotist or prosthetist who receive Master of Science degrees and residence training before becoming certified practitioners.
- Reduce the likelihood of waste, fraud, and abuse in the Medicare program by prohibiting the practice of “drop shipping” (shipping an orthoses or prostheses to a beneficiary without first receiving direct patient care from a trained, certified or licensed health care practitioner) of orthotic braces that are not truly “off-the-shelf” (i.e., subject to minimal self-adjustment by the patient him- or herself).
So, what next? Continue to stay tuned for additional action you can take on the two pieces of legislation as well on other issues. Plan to attend the Policy Forum, May 5-6 in Washington DC. It is our opportunity to have our voices heard.
Thank you for your efforts in 2019, for continuing to advocate for the profession and its patients. Together we will further improve the lives of those living with limb loss and limb impairment.
If you have any questions, contact Justin Beland, AOPA Director of Government Affairs at jbeland@AOPAnet.org.