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This week, hundreds of therapists gathered in Washington D.C. for a 3 day forum to bring awareness, appreciation, and analysis regarding critical issues facing the therapy profession. The conference featured an array of diverse speakers including : Crossfire host and former campaign manager Stephanie Cutter, Democratic Representative Jackie Spier, and Congressional Foundation member Brad Fitch. Cutter spoke of the rancorous political environment surrounding the Affordable Care Act, while Spier spoke movingly about her experiences with physical therapy, and Fitch gave substantive tips on building successful lobbying relationships with congress and the need to put a personal stamp on advocacy, (he probably should have been working with the lawmakers regarding relationship building).

The Public Service Award was handed out to Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois. The Senator suffered a stroke a couple years ago, but with intensive in-patient and out-patient therapy, has made a remarkable recovery. The capitol weather alternated between soggy and sunny, which was fittingly symbolic for the mixed news that had taken place in regards to the SGR legislation just a week prior. A 1 year extension of the Therapy Caps Exceptions Process was taken to the wire with all the usual dramatic idiocy. The extension gives lawmakers until April 1st of 2015 to find the elusive permanent fix of the harmful and arbitrary therapy caps, along with a plan to do away with the SGR cuts so crucial to the nations doctors. As for the excited rumors that a permanent fix was in sight- well, it was just one more setback in a process with more false starts then a junior high offensive line. The disappointment was palpable because this was “finally” the year that folks saw some real promise to advance the ball, especially with health care costs slowing and the price tag on permanent repeal shrinking to its lowest total in years.  Alas, the bickering began and it was not to be.

I have been watching this debate for years but even I was astonished to hear that this was the 17th time a temporary “patch’ had been put in place at a cost of approximately 160 billions dollars. Incredibly, this was roughly the cost of a permanent fix, which just showcases the lunacy surrounding this debate. 17 patches should be enough to make a new quilt at some point! The 1 year extension was paid for with a series of tweaks and cuts to radiology, clinical labs, and value-based purchasing for skilled nursing facilities. It also included an extension of certain sequester provisions.  The APTA will continue to advocate for its alternative payment reform plan which focuses on outcomes and quality over fee-for-service incentives.   You can read more about the alternative plan here. Advanced Medical will continue to monitor developments in Washington and feels privileged to work with such talented and professional therapists. Until next time…