Advocacy in D.C.
JoLynn Munro, President of Infinity Rehab, and Stacey Turner, Vice President of Operations, recently advocated for several healthcare and therapy issues on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. While attending the Advion Legislative and Regulatory Conference, they met with several senators to discuss important issues. It was the first time Infinity Rehab leaders have met in-person since 2019.
Munro and Turner visited Senator Jeff Merkley, Oregon, Senator Ron Wyden, Oregon, and Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Washington.
Long-Term Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (PFS) Reform
In the years 2011-2013 and 2021-2022, rehab therapy providers have experience part B reimbursement reductions. Decreased reimbursement along with higher costs is a formula that rehab therapy providers cannot sustain and has implications for patient access to services, especially in rural and underserved areas. As reimbursement has decreased, labor costs have increased, especially with the “Great Resignation” in healthcare, which has left providers with a significant therapist workforce shortage.
The current workforce shortage, along with the continuous reductions in reimbursement to rehab therapy and portable x- ray services over the last 11 years, is driving down access to these important services, especially in rural and medically underserved areas.
Congress did pass the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023, providing temporary provider relief. But long-term reform for PFS is needed. Munro and Turner, along with several other advocates, visited senators to urge Congress to work with stakeholders on long-term, substantive payment reforms and to begin holding Congressional hearings as soon as possible to begin exploring potential payment solutions to ensure Medicare beneficiaries continue to receive access to the high quality care they deserve.
Permanent Expansion of Telehealth Services for Medicare Beneficiaries
Before the pandemic, coverage of telehealth services under Medicare was limited to beneficiaries living in rural areas only, with restrictions on where beneficiaries could receive these services and which providers could deliver them. Unfortunately, the telehealth flexibilities that have been granted during the PHE for COVID-19 will only be available through December 2024.
Munro and Turner encouraged the senators and representative they visited to consider telehealth utilization as continuing or expanding access to care, not necessarily as a way to deliver less costly care, and to pay for telehealth services similarly to what would be paid for in-person services.
Health IT and Interoperability
Recognizing that LTPAC adoption of health IT is part of the path to higher quality care, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering & Medicine (NASEM) calls on the ONC and CMS to identify a pathway to provide financial incentives to nursing homes for certified electronic health record (EHR) adoption that supports health information exchanges to enhance person-centered longitudinal care.
Nursing homes were not included among those hospitals and healthcare professionals eligible to participate in the federal government’s incentive program, and thus they have not benefited from the program’s financial incentives, which sunset in 2021.
Munro and Turner shared with Senators Merkley and Wyden and Representative McMorris-Rodgers that Congress should follow the recommendations in the NASEM report by providing federal incentive funds that will allow the post-acute sector – including nursing facilities, home health, IRF, and LTCH – to achieve parity with the acute and ambulatory care in order to advance interoperability that can help to improve care for America’s most vulnerable citizens.
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 representatives and senators when possible.
“We do have a voice,” JoLynn stated. “We do have the ear of our legislators in D.C.”