JoLynn Munro, Division President at Infinity Rehab, recently advocated for healthcare on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. While attending the NARA Spring Conference, she joined fellow NARA representatives meeting with Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley to discuss pertinent healthcare issues facing the rehabilitation industry.
First, she thanked the policy maker for supporting the elimination of the therapy cap on rehabilitation under Medicare. The cap was removed in February 2018 after 19 years of lobbying, marking a victory and major milestone for clinicians across the United States.
JoLynn and the fellow NARA representatives then discussed three key healthcare issues:
- The clinician shortage
- Opioid crisis
- Telehealth needs
Issue #1: clinician shortage
NARA and other rehabilitation providers are experiencing a critical shortage of clinicians, making it difficult to meet the current needs for services.
Two of the factors to this shortage include the rising costs in education along with a decline in students graduating from universities each year.
NARA representatives recommended providing incentives through scholarship and tuition reimbursement to prospective and current students in therapy education programs. They also discussed recruiting qualified rehab professionals from other countries to bridge the gap.
Issue #2: opioid crisis
The opioid crisis is currently a critical topic on the hill.
JoLynn and fellow NARA members asked that any legislation they were considering or supporting would include therapy as a first-line item prior to pharmaceutical interventions.
NARA believes a multidisciplinary team approach, early conservative treatment, and education for primary care providers and the public must be part of a comprehensive strategy to combat the opioid crisis.
Occupational and physical therapists can play a major role in helping people reduce their pain without the use of pharmaceuticals.
Issue #3: Telehealth needs
They also discussed telehealth, and JoLynn shared Infinity Rehab’s experience in Washington State using telehealth for PT supervisory visits. Infinity Rehab is one of the few therapy companies who uses telehealth and received an innovation award from NARA for their work in this area.
Although Infinity Rehab received special permissions for telehealth, therapy companies cannot bill therapy time for the electronic visits.
“To have a therapist be able to do an evaluation remotely, and to allow it to be recognized by Medicare, would be a huge step towards success,” JoLynn said.
She asked Merkley’s representatives to consider adding therapists to any telehealth legislation on the hill and reinforced that it would open up therapy services for people who have difficulty accessing care today.
JoLynn’s unforgettable experience
JoLynn’s time on the hill was energizing. She expressed her appreciation for being able to bring industry concerns to Washington, D.C. and to be heard. She encourages everyone to visit with their representative when possible.
“We do have a voice,” JoLynn stated. “We do have the ear of our legislators in D.C.”
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