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ADVANCE Perspective: Physical Therapy & Rehab Medicine

PT Day on Capitol Hill

Published June 11, 2015 4:58 PM by Brian Ferrie

The morning of June 4 started very early for more than 1,000 dedicated attendees at the American Physical Therapy Association's NEXT 2015 Conference & Exposition in National Harbor, Md. These hardy souls awoke before the sun, donned their professional best and headed downstairs by 6 a.m. for a quick breakfast before boarding shuttle buses bound for nearby Washington, D.C. The much-anticipated PT Day on Capitol Hill had arrived!

Despite the early hour, their energy and enthusiasm abounded. Led by Michael Matlack, APTA director of grassroots and political affairs, the attendees disembarked from their shuttle buses in front of the Capitol Building and paraded to a nearby lawn. The light drizzle couldn't dampen spirits as they anticipated their opportunity to march into the Capitol and talk with legislators about the pertinent issues impacting the PT profession.

A succession of speakers addressed the attendees while they waited until 9 a.m. to make their move. Among them was APTA Past President Paul A. Rockar Jr., PT, DPT, MS, who said, "Our goal today is to communicate the value and importance of physical therapy in healthcare, and the way that it transforms lives. I've learned a lot of lessons about advocacy over the years, and one of the most important is we can't take for granted that our role in educating legislators will be done by somebody else. We need to do it. From sharing with them the real-life patient stories about the harmful impact of the therapy cap, to reminding them about the vital role physical therapists play in treating concussions and our job as the number-one resource in physical therapy. We're all equally accountable in finding a role to ensure our success."

Rockar was followed at the podium by Rep. Xavier Becerra of California, an important ally of the profession who has co-sponsored HR 775. This bill, the "Medicare Access to Rehabilitation Services Act," would repeal the outpatient therapy cap.

Congressman Xavier Becerra, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for California's 34th congressional district.

"I want you all to know that many members of Congress are with us on this," he told the audience. "Including my friend Rep. Charles Boustany from Louisiana, the principal co-sponsor along with me of HR 775, which will undo this fits and starts way of providing the best care to a lot of Americans who have paid for it under Medicare. We want to say thank you for their support. Shout out nice and loud so everybody in the Capitol Building over there can hear you, we're ready to make sure HR 775 becomes the law of the land!"

Finally, Matlack himself spoke, looking proudly out on the eager group he had played such a vital role in assembling.

"I want to share with you one of my favorite quotes when it comes to advocacy," he said. "These are the words of Thomas Jefferson: ‘We in America do not have government by the majority, we have government by the majority who participate.' You're participating, and I really appreciate that. All of you came to D.C. to do this. Now we need to tell our colleagues back home. Because it's not just one time you're here to advocate. You need to continue to do that. Today you're participating for your profession, patients and colleagues. Are you ready to share with your members of Congress and their staffs how physical therapy can provide the answers and savings for the healthcare system? Today is our opportunity to highlight the benefits of rehabilitation and the services we provide. Let's make history!"

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