The AARC PACT (Political Advocacy Contact Team) meeting for this year was April 8-10, 2019. We had 326 congressional meetings scheduled with 44 states represented. In our Virtual Lobby Week which was conducted from March 27th through April 10th there were over 44,640 contacts made to congressional offices by over 11,026 advocates across the country – most were from Respiratory Therapists!
In this 116th Congress, in IL we have the following House members on Health Subcommittees where our legislation and healthcare issues would initially be sent:
Ways and Means (Health Subcommittee):
Brad Schneider-IL 10
Energy and Commerce (Health Subcommittee):
Bobby Rush-IL 1
Robin Kelly-IL 2
John Shimkus-IL 15
We have the following IL members on the COPD Caucus:
Sen Dick Durbin – Caucus Co-Chair
Rep Dan Lipinsky – IL 3
Rep Mike Quigley – IL 5
Rep Danny Davis – IL 7
Rep Jan Schakowsky – IL 9
Rep Bill Foster – IL 11
Rep Cheri Bustos – IL 17
During our meetings we asked our congressional leaders for the following:
We want House members to co-sponsor the Better Respiration through Expanded Access to Tele-Health Act (BREATHE Act) and Senators to introduce companion legislation. We have a House member who will sponsor the bill. Once we have a bill number, the AARC will update their website and email messages to Congress.
This legislation is a 3-year pilot that allows qualified RTs as telehealth practitioners to deliver disease management services to Medicare beneficiaries with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Services would be limited to self-education management and training, demonstration/evaluation of proper inhaler techniques, smoking cessation and remote patient monitoring of respiratory physiologic data. RTs would work under the direct supervision of the physician and the physician would bill Medicare.
We want Congress to direct CMS to monitor patient access to supplemental oxygen, especially liquid oxygen, during the suspension of competitive bidding to ensure patient access is not compromised.
Beginning January 1, 2019, Medicare suspended its competitive bidding program for 18-24 months (e.g., gap period), recognizing flaws in the program and the need to establish a new bidding process that leads to more accurate payment for services. When we spoke to our representatives about the need to ensure patient access to liquid oxygen during Medicare’s 18-24 month gap period, we asked them to go on record with their support by signing a letter to the Medicare administrator directing the Medicare program to monitor patient access to liquid oxygen for those whose lives depend on it and report its findings to Congress.
Aside from the two primary issues discussed in our meetings, we also voiced opposition to the inclusion of ventilators under competitive bidding as another issue of importance for respiratory therapists and our patients. It is our understanding the Medicare is considering adding ventilators as a category under the Competitive Bidding program when this becomes active again after the gap period.
As always, we left a packet with a brief summary of all these issues for further review.
There will be follow up that will continue both in DC and back at the District Offices here in Illinois within the next few weeks and months as we will work to make follow up appointments.
The AARC will keep us up to date on any new information we may need as we all continue to advocate for these issues. If anyone has any questions or would like to connect with me regarding these issues, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Respectfully submitted: Lisa Zaenger, RRT, RCP
AARC IL PACT Co-Chair
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