NAAOP Fellowship Program: The NAAOP board of directions recently met in Vancouver to discuss this past summer’s pilot test of the NAAOP Fellowship program. Nicole Ver Kuilen proved to be an exceptional Inaugural Fellow—see the September issue of O&P Edge to read about her Washington education. The board unanimously agreed to continue the fellowship program in 2019 and, if fundraising is successful, expand to two NAAOP fellows next summer. Stay tuned for more formal announcements in the future and please keep your patients in mind for recommendations to this program. O&P consumers are the most compelling advocates.
Pre-Midterm Election Update: The House is already in recess and the Senate is not far behind. Both parties recognize the importance of the coming midterm elections and how the outcome will drive the agenda for the next two years. Before adjourning, the House and Senate were able to agree on a number of major appropriations bills that will fund the federal government through the end of fiscal year 2019 which ends on September 30th, a year from now. They also agreed to a continuing resolution to fund several federal agencies temporarily, through December 7th, where Congress will have to revisit longer term spending levels. The Department of Health and Human Services received a full year budget including:
National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research (NCMRR): The NIH 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 is an exciting development that will require 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. NCMRR was established in 1990 and NAAOP played a major role in its creation, our first legislative achievement!
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 control the House and Senate. 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 the new Congress is seated in January. 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 health care area. This may provide a legislative vehicle to attach legislation to clarify Congressional intent by redefining off-the-shelf orthotics. This redefinition would reinstate the true meaning of the words “minimal self-adjustment” and require CMS to pare back the broad list of orthotic HCPCS codes that may be exposed to competitive bidding in the future.