Last summer, the AOA learned that a Medicare billing contractor proposed new policy that would have created barriers for DOs in 10 states to correctly bill for osteopathic manipulative treatment. Swinging into action, the AOA and its affiliate partners led an advocacy campaign that mobilized the profession, generating more than 5,000 opposition letters.
That coordinated effort shut down the proposed change and helped DOs #SaveOMT.
It is just one of several advocacy successes the AOA celebrated in the past year—and it’s an example of why public policy remains a strategic priority.
“By devoting more resources to advocacy efforts, the AOA has been able to protect and elevate the osteopathic medical profession like never before,” says Nick Schilligo, the AOA’s vice president of public policy.
Below, learn more about the #SaveOMT campaign and several other areas where the AOA has made significant policy strides in the past year.
1. Opioid outreach
Over the past year, the osteopathic medical profession has positioned itself as a leader in the fight to curb the nation’s opioid epidemic. The AOA has successfully advocated to have OMT included as a nonpharmacological option in new or updated opioid prescribing guidelines for the Federation of State Medical Boards and the states of West Virginia, Ohio and Michigan.
“These efforts have provided the profession with an opportunity to demonstrate the benefits of OMT and promote the osteopathic approach to treating pain,” Schilligo says. “As a result, the AOA emerged as a leader in addressing a public health epidemic that’s affecting so many patients across the country.”
2. State medical boards
The AOA and its affiliate partners invested significant effort over the past 12 months in preventing four state osteopathic medical boards—in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Washington–from being merged with their MD counterparts.
“Maintaining distinctive boards allows us to continue to support and promote the unique qualities that DOs bring to providing patient-centered care,” says Schilligo. “Osteopathic education, training and practice are different, and our licensing boards should reflect that distinction.”
3. Increased visibility in DC, state capitols and media
The AOA’s advocacy efforts continue to raise osteopathic medicine’s profile on Capitol Hill and in state legislatures throughout the country. AOA leaders provided input during health care reform discussions with key members of Congress.
“We’ve had the opportunity to educate leaders in the House and Senate on our priority areas around health care reform,” Schilligo says. “We’ve stressed the importance of enacting meaningful reforms that maintain coverage and access to care, while emphasizing that rising health care costs must be addressed in order to truly improve the system.”
The AOA has also connected with the governors of 48 states to explain its position on health care reform.
Additionally, the AOA has established a relationship with the Food and Drug Administration, which has asked for osteopathic testimony and representation in multiple meetings.
These efforts resulted in media attention from high-profile news sources such as NBC News, CBS News and Medscape. In the past year, more than 800 policy-related news articles have included the AOA or osteopathic physicians, positioning the osteopathic profession as a leader in health care policy.
4. #SaveOMT campaign
As previously referenced, an advocacy campaign led by the AOA and osteopathic affiliates overturned a 2016 proposal by a regional Medicare billing contractor that would have severely limited payment for OMT in 10 states. The campaign generated 5,000 letters from the osteopathic profession as well as 3,700 letters that persuaded CMS to maintain current national OMT codes.
5. Teaching health center advocacy
In April, the profession stormed Capitol Hill on DO Day to advocate for continued funding for teaching health center graduate medical education. DO Day advocacy resulted in more than 50 additional members of Congress signing a letter calling for the funding to be renewed, and a formal bill is expected to be introduced in the House in the coming weeks.