On December 8, 2021, NAAOP hosted a Congressional “Fly-In” to advocate for passage of orthotic and prosthetic legislative priorities. The event was virtual and designed as a “pilot” to assess the feasibility of conducting such events in the future. The pandemic has made telephonic visits to Capitol Hill offices much more common, and this enabled NAAOP to proceed with this event. Over twenty 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. These pieces of legislation are considered “must-pass” which presents an opportunity to attach O&P-specific bills to this legislative vehicle.
NAAOP focused on three issues, passage of the Medicare O&P Patient-Centered Care Act, passage of the “Triple A” Study Act, and introduction to 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 members and friends who wish to help advocate for passage of the two bills can go to the Legislative Action Center on the NAAOP website at www.naaop.org.
In virtually all of our Congressional meetings, the three issues we discussed were well received and there is reason to be optimistic for action on this legislation in the future. However, these bills are not necessarily 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 our legislation cautioned that inclusion of our provisions in year-end bills would be a huge lift, notwithstanding their support for the contents of our proposals.
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. If action is not taken this year to advance that bill, AOPA has learned—and the lead sponsors NAAOP met with confirmed—that this legislation will be re-introduced in the new Congress. The Triple A Study Act was introduced in August 2020 at the behest of the Amputee Coalition. Our advocacy centered around building awareness of and support for the legislation and the value of obtaining the wealth of information on O&P insurance coverage, demographics, and access to care the bill would produce. 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 to discuss further.
NAAOP would like to thank all of those who participated in this successful advocacy event on behalf of the O&P profession and the patients we serve.