#AARCLobby | Advocacy for 2020

 Published: January 22, 2020

By: Heather Willden


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The AARC advocacy program for 2020 takes on the mindset to “Be an Advocate, Every Day.” Although we will continue to dedicate times to send targeted messages to the Hill, we want you to support advocacy efforts throughout the year.

Instead of just focusing on a single piece of legislation—or legislation that primarily benefits respiratory therapists—topics will also include bills that impact home mechanical ventilation, pulmonary rehabilitation, and the youth tobacco epidemic. Why are these bills important to the respiratory care profession and you? Advocating for a variety of initiatives bolsters your image as experts in pulmonary care and keeps the respiratory care profession on the minds of Congressional leaders.

Topics for 2020:

Telehealth is Still a Priority

The House and Senate have introduced identical versions of the CONNECT (Creating Opportunities Now for New and Effective Care Technologies) for Health Act (H.R. 4932/S. 2741) that are bipartisan with the support of AARC and over 120 organizations. The legislation allows RTs to provide telehealth services as part of the health care delivery models being tested by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Innovation Center. The CONNECT Act also encourages CMS to test new telehealth models, which could translate into a model that includes provisions of the BREATHE Act (H.R. 2508) that focus on chronic disease management services furnished to Medicare beneficiaries by RTs as telehealth practitioners. We will focus our campaigning on these telehealth bills in 2020.

Adding Noninvasive Ventilators to Competitive Bidding is a Bad Idea

CMS’ inclusion of noninvasive ventilators in the next round of competitive bidding puts patients at risk and could impact access to respiratory therapists who care for them in the home. The AARC and other stakeholders have been instrumental in the introduction of H.R. 4945, the Safeguarding Medicare Access to Respiratory Therapy (SMART) Act to keep noninvasive ventilators out of competitive bidding for five years and require CMS to revise its outdated coverage policies that do not recognize the advancement in technologies and which have resulted in a substantial increase in use over the past few years. Since competitive bidding is set to begin in January 2021, it is critical for Congress to act quickly and include the SMART ACT in any health legislation being considered.

Pulmonary Rehab Programs Cannot Afford another Payment Decrease

Pulmonary rehabilitation (PR) programs already suffer from low reimbursement rates and recent changes to Medicare rules make matters worse. Hospitals choosing to expand or relocate PR programs that are more than 250 yards from their main complex are subject to drastic payment reductions, resulting in a strong disincentive to improve access. Cardiac rehab (CR) programs are also impacted. H.R. 4838, the Sustaining Outpatient Services (SOS) Act, spearheaded by the American Association for Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (AACVPR), will require CMS to establish financial thresholds that will exempt certain hospital outpatient services, including PR and CR programs, from current policy. The AARC supports this necessary change to the rules.

Tobacco Use Among Youth Continues to Grow

While several states have enacted legislation to prohibit the sale of flavored tobacco products, H.R. 2339, the Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act, would make this a federal prohibition. This comprehensive tobacco bill that is supported by over 50 national organizations, including the AARC, offers solutions to the current crisis by prohibiting flavors in all tobacco products, including flavored e-cigarettes, flavored cigars, and menthol cigarettes; banning online sales of tobacco products; and protecting youth from unauthorized marketing by the tobacco industry.

Stay Tuned for More to Come

We will kick off our first TAKE ACTION campaign in early February, designating a week to send targeted messages to Congress asking for co-sponsors of the CONNECT Act and the SMART Act, the latter of which is time-sensitive. Stay tuned for further details. Your advocacy on behalf of the profession makes a huge difference. We hope we can count on you.

Mark Your Calendar

AARC’s tentative Lobby TAKE ACTION spring campaigns are scheduled to run:*

  • Feb. 10-14 (CONNECT Act and SMART Act)
  • Mar. 9-13 (SOS Act and Tobacco Bill)
  • Apr. 26 – May 6 (CONNECT Act and SMART Act), supporting our May 5 Hill Day efforts

*Subject to change depending on actions in Washington or changes with our targeted legislation.

Email newsroom@aarc.org with questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you.

Heather Willden

Heather Willden is the Director of Governance and Strategic Initiatives for the AARC where she works with state affiliates as the HOD liaison. She also manages DEI efforts and strategic initiatives. Connect with her about these topics by email, AARConnect or LinkedIn. When she's not working, you can find her podcasting with her husband, exploring new hiking trails, photographing, and spending time with her family.

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