By Kate Jacobson | March 13, 2020
Earlier this month, AACVPR sent a delegation of cardiac and pulmonary rehab professionals for the Day on the Hill. This annual tradition connects association members and officials with members of congress in Washington D.C. to discuss legislation and its impact on constituents. This year the event was held on March 2-3.
This year, one of the top issues for the association is reduced payments for outpatient cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation services off-campus. The association helped introduce 4838 – SOS (Sustaining Outpatient Services). If approved, the bill would enable rehab programs to be reimbursed equally for our services, whether the program is located on or off-campus.
Paulette Pontier, RN, MSN, CNL, CCRP, was one of those in attendance this year. Pontier, who is the clinical manager of cardiopulmonary at Fairview Hospital in Great Barrington, Mass., said this was her second year at Day on the Hill. She said it was something she greatly looked forward to: After getting the hang of things last year, she was excited to have more in-depth conversations with policymakers.
“I’m still learning the process—it’s very complicated,” she said. “But luckily I have guidance. AACVPR has guided us to where we need to be and how it works.”
Pontier and Wayne Reynolds, RN, FAACVPR , CCRP—both members of the Massachusetts Association of Cardiovascular & Pulmonary Rehabilitation—had the opportunity to meet with Congressman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) and his Deputy Chief of Staff Elizabeth O’Hara. Pontier said she told O’Hara AACVPR’s goal was to gain additional support for Bill 4838—SOS as part of the Medicare extender this May.
“Ms. O’Hara understood exactly what I was asking and said she had great respect for the folks that prepare the CPO numbers,” Pontier said. “This year they really heard about the impact [SOS] was having on patients not being able to expand programs.”
For Pontier, it was exciting to know that lawmakers were taking the time to listen to her and pledge to advocate for cardiac and pulmonary rehab.
“When you go there and you hear them talk and they understand—you feel heard,” she said. “We felt supported and understood. They didn’t treat it like this was just another appointment, they knew why we were there.”
Representation at Day on the Hill is important, she said. She urged anyone who has an interest in going take the time and attend. And if you’re in Massachusetts, she even offered to drive next year.
“It’s not as intimidating as you think,” she said. “It is well worth your time and investment. I will continue to go for a long time.”