Thursday, July 28, 2011

Congressional Briefing 2011 – A Phenomenal Accomplishment

U.S. Representative Tom Price (R-GA)


The 2011 AHCA/NCAL Congressional Briefing was, in the words of Governor Mark Parkinson, AHCA/NCAL President & CEO, “a phenomenal accomplishment.” Equally impressive was the scope of impact that attendees made on Capitol Hill. As Governor Parkinson noted, “Over the course of 48 hours we were in nearly every Congressional office making our voices are heard.”

With over 400 highly motivated attendees, this year’s Briefing was able to convince several Members of Congress to contact the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the White House regarding the problems with the Skilled Nursing Facility Prospective Payment System (SNF PPS) Proposed Rule for FY 2012. These advocates were, after all, well informed constituents who either own or operate nursing homes or other long term care facilities and many included caregivers on their teams to give a first hand account of what it takes to give quality hands-on care. Major national issues on the day’s agenda included: Medicare (SNF PPS), Medicaid (block grants, provider taxes) and assisted living (proposed new HCBS rules). Delegations from many states also had local issues to discuss with their Member of Congress.

Attendees listen during the Briefing.

A sub-theme of all the core issues concerned employment. Long term care is the 10th largest employer in the nation, contributing 5.4 million jobs and supporting $529 billion in economic activity. Drastic short or long term cuts to Medicare or Medicaid can be very disruptive to a local economy.

Specific issues aside, attendees were ready to make an impact on Capitol Hill. AHCA/NCAL prepped all advocates the day before with special sessions for not-for-profit members, assisted living members, “first timers,” and “Future Leaders” of long term care. At the pre-visitation briefing, participants were updated on issues and received materials to help them explain complex issues. This session included positive encouragement by Members of Congress Andy Harris, M.D. (R-MD); Tom Price, M.D. (R-GA); and Diane Black (R-TN).

All speakers shared the same message with participants: “advocating for quality long term care is as simple as telling your story." As Governor Parkinson stated, “We’re the experts in long term care and Congress needs to hear from us.” Perhaps the best example of putting this practice into action were the 2011 recipients of the Joe Warner Patient Advocacy Award -- Angelo Rotella of Rhode Island; Dion Sena of Florida; and Sally and Roland Rapp of California. These outstanding advocates were recognized by Members of Congress for their contributions to preserving quality care for America’s seniors and individuals with disabilities.

Did you visit with your Member of Congress during the Briefing, or at any other time this year? Leave a comment about your experience talking with a Member of Congress.