The National Association for the Advancement of Orthotics and Prosthetics (NAAOP) helped sponsor a congressional briefing on the importance of rehabilitation of the US health care system. The briefing took place in the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center and highlighted for policymakers the value of rehabilitation and habilitation services and devices for people who sustain injuries, have disabilities or chronic conditions.
Peter W. Thomas, JD, NAAOP general counsel, moderated the briefing and provided the context for the information presented to attendees. Thomas spoke to the regulatory efforts of the Department of Health and Human Services to establish the criteria and scope of the essential health benefits package, which will include the category of “rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices” as mandated by the Affordable Care Act. Thomas also spoke of current efforts by states to cut Medicaid benefits and the importance of protecting coverage of rehabilitative services and devices across the United States. He also stressed the importance of understanding the cost-effectiveness of rehabilitation services and devices as Congress and the President negotiate significant reforms to the entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid in the context of raising the nation’s debt ceiling.
Thomas related his own experience with rehabilitation care and his life-long use of prostheses. He noted how important it is that insurance (whether private or government-sponsored) include coverage of orthotic and prosthetic care, including replacements, services and supplies that permit the effective use of O&P devices.
The featured speaker of the briefing was Gerard Francisco, MD, chief medical officer, TIRR Memorial Hermann and the chairman of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and Brian Injury Fellowship director at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. Francisco is the attending rehabilitation physician for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords who sustained a brain injury as a result of a gunshot wound earlier this year. Francisco’s presence helped attract a large crowd to the event. He spoke compellingly on the impact of rehabilitative and habilitative services on the health, functional status and ability of Americans with brain injuries and other disabilities to recover from trauma and disease and live independently in their homes and communities.
Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI), co-chair of the House bipartisan disabilities caucus and the only quadriplegic in Congress, delivered closing remarks at the briefing. At least 70 Congressional staffers attended the briefing representing dozens of House and Senate offices, including several members who serve on relevant health committees. The Congressional staff was presented with a wide range of information on rehabilitation and the value of O&P patient care, all designed to assist legislators and regulators with O&P public policy in the future.