The National Association for the Advancement of Orthotics and Prosthetics (NAAOP) has released its latest webcast in which General Counsel Peter Thomas, JD, comments on the success and extension of its fellowship program as well as the upcoming pre-midterm elections, which could include a number of bills that will impact the healthcare area.
The NAAOP board of directors discussed this past summer’s pilot test of its fellowship program during the American Orthotic & Prosthetic Association (AOPA) National Assembly in Vancouver, British Columbia, in September and said that Nicole Ver Kuilen proved to be an exceptional inaugural fellow. The board unanimously agreed to continue the fellowship program in 2019 and, if fundraising is successful, expand to two NAAOP fellows next summer, Thomas said, who also encouraged practitioners to keep their patients in mind for recommendations to the program.
With the U.S. House of Representatives already in recess and the U.S. Senate soon to follow, both parties recognize the importance of the coming midterm elections and how the outcome will drive the agenda for the next two years, Thomas said. Before adjourning, the House and Senate did agree on several major appropriations bills that will fund the federal government through the end of fiscal year 2019, which ends on September 30. They also agreed to a continuing resolution to fund several federal agencies temporarily, through December 7, when Congress will have to revisit longer term spending levels.
Thomas said the Department of Health and Human Services received a full year budget including the National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research (NCMRR). The National Institutes of Health received another $2 billion increase in funding, bringing the overall budget to $39 billion. This was the third $2 billion increase in three years. These increased funds trickle down to the NCMRR, which recently announced the funding of a $5 million grant over five years for a prosthetics registry. This development that requires substantial participation and investment by the O&P community and should yield, over time, “excellent data” on which to base coverage policies, outcomes research, and treatment recommendations, Thomas said.
It is difficult to forecast whether the “lame-duck” session of Congress after the election will be productive based on the uncertainty of which party will be in control, Thomas said. Political pollsters believe the House is more likely to turn than the Senate. If this occurs, Congress will likely push most of its remaining business off until January when the new Congress is seated. If the House and Senate remain in Republican hands, there is a real chance for passage of several bills, including a number of bills that impact the healthcare area, Thomas said. This may provide a legislative vehicle to attach legislation to clarify Congressional intent by redefining off-the-shelf orthotics, he said. This redefinition would reinstate the true meaning of the words “minimal self-adjustment” and require the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to pare back the broad list of orthotic Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (HCPCS) codes that may be exposed to competitive bidding in the future.