By Kate Jacobson | January 29, 2020
The future is now.
From ordering groceries on our phones to chatting with people in real-time around the world, technology has changed (and often) improved our way of life. And for AACVPR, that same technology is allowing more voices to be heard on important legislative topics.
AACVPR’s virtual lobbying effort was introduced last year, and it’s proving to be effective. Karen Lui, BSN, MS, MAACVPR, is a consultant who represents AACVPR in Washington D.C. She said the new virtual lobbying tool has made it easy for people across the country to tell their state’s US members of Congress how they feel about important issues relating to cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation.
“Sending personalized letters can be very laborious and time consuming for our members—and it can be a big deterrent to following through or taking action,” she said. “This virtual lobbying tool has been a game changer.”
What is virtual lobbying? AACVPR, along with vendor GovPredict, allows people to send personalized letters to their representatives through an online portal. In it, users can access information about AACVPR-specific lobbying initiatives along with templates for letters created by the association. It can also connect to social media, sending a tweet or sharing a Facebook post to their representatives.
All of this within the span of minutes.
“AACVPR has matured enough in advocacy to deserve this level of action,” she said. “This is a new way of communicating and it’s important one, too. Congress realizes it—they all tweet and are on social media and are reading emails. This is the world we live in.”
The new tool also allows for the association to track data on how many people are writing letters and where. Lui said this is especially helpful to boost lobbying efforts in particular states.
“We’ve identified a contact person in each state and they’re responsible for motivating and guiding that state’s affiliate members,” she said. “With this data, we can go to Day on the Hill (DOTH) in March, and open the dialogue with a specific member of Congress, saying, ‘I know you’ve received letters on this issue.’ It’s much more effective than walking into an office with an important issue to many of us and have the staffer respond, ‘Why is this the first time I’ve heard about this?’”
One issue that is top of mind of AACVPR officials are reduced payments for outpatient cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation services off-campus. The association helped introduce House Bill 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.
Lui said it is critical for this to pass. Offering cardiac and pulmonary rehab services allows for expansion of space and participants. While some hospitals recognize the importance of rehabilitation and focus on the clinical benefits for the patient, Lui said with poor Medicare reimbursement, the likely consequence will be less ability to meet growing referral demands.
“We can’t increase access if we’re not reimbursed,” she said. “This will impact cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation very negatively. Our services are typically low cost, but without adequate reimbursement, the services will remain unavailable to a majority of patients who would benefit from cardiac or pulmonary rehabilitation.”
Lui said they will continue using the tool until HR 4838 and a companion Senate bill (coming soon) is passed. She encourages members who haven’t used the tool yet to send letters and keep the momentum going.
“The system can work,” she said. “We have had wins in the past—and a win feels good. If we’re going to get this bill over the finish line, we will need to persist.”