News in Brief

Save OMT: More than 5,000 comment letters submitted opposing proposed rule

The AOA plans to use these letters to reinforce the validity of DOs using OMT to diagnose and treat patients.

The campaign to save osteopathic manipulative treatment resulted in 5,024 DOs, osteopathic medical students and patients submitting comment letters expressing opposition to a proposed rule from Medicare billing contractor National Government Services (NGS) that would make it nearly impossible for DOs in 10 states to bill Medicare for an appropriate office visit when OMT is performed. To put that number in perspective, MACRA, which will impact nearly every practicing physician who takes Medicare, only generated 3,918 comment letters.

The proposed rule would impact physicians and patients in New York, Illinois, Wisconsin, Maine, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Vermont. For several weeks, the AOA—in conjunction with state and specialty affiliates—organized and activated the osteopathic community to help block this proposed rule.

The state and specialty affiliates led the way with an initial call-to-action to their members. Over the course of three days, 968 comment letters were submitted. The AOA followed with repeated calls-to-action and direct mail to all AOA members. The AOA also worked with physicians to ensure their patients could voice opposition. Here’s the comment letter the AOA sent to lawmakers.

Below, the AOA’s public policy team answers frequently asked questions about the campaign.

Why didn’t the AOA start a WhiteHouse.gov petition asking President Obama to intervene?

A WhiteHouse.gov petition would have been a poor tactical choice for this issue. The odds of the AOA attaining the necessary 100,000 signatures were extraordinarily low. With only 10 states being impacted and a short period of time for comments, focusing our resources on gathering petition signatures from the 80% of the nation not impacted by this proposed ruling would have dramatically diminished our ability to organize in the impacted states. More importantly, the AOA is already in discussions with the highest levels of the administration on this issue.

Why didn’t the AOA directly ask me to participate in the campaign?

Effective advocacy campaigns deliver the right message, from the right messenger, at the right point in the process. On this issue, the voice of a physician from Vermont is more powerful than the voice of a physician from Idaho. Too many voices from nonimpacted states can drown out the voices of those in the 10 impacted states and harm the campaign.

Think of it like this: If you are a resident of Arizona and write a member of Congress from Florida about an issue you are passionate about, does the member from Florida consider your opinion? For this issue, the right messengers were DOs, osteopathic medical students or patients from the 10 impacted states.

What’s next?

The AOA will be using the comment letters to reinforce our position in discussions with NGS, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS), and the administration. CMS has included potential changes to OMT in the 2017 proposed physician fee schedule, and we will be asking the entire osteopathic community across all states to help support our response.