By Meghan O'Brien
For those familiar with “Schoolhouse Rock,” the 1976 classic “I’m Just a Bill” likely conjures memories of elementary school social studies class. It is, however, still an excellent introduction to the legislative process and a reminder that introducing legislation in Congress is no small feat.
When H.R. 3654 was introduced in July 2019, there was no way to predict that the following winter would bring a pandemic, resulting Public Health Emergency (PHE) and unprecedented challenges across the nation and in government. With stay-at-home orders in place and Capitol Hill all but closed, ACA, like everyone, had to quickly adapt to the new normal and ensure that our legislative priorities would be maintained.
It is without a doubt that the dedication and resolve of our members who advocate each day on behalf of their patients was critical to this effort. After its introduction, H.R.3654, The Chiropractic Medicare Coverage Modernization Act of 2019, was referred to two House committees, Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means. Each bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives is assigned a committee (or committees) of jurisdiction--a vital part of the division of labor in our legislative process.
As a representative democracy, Congress represents the interests of more than 330 million Americans. Laws begin as bills and bills begin as ideas brought to a member of Congress. With 435 members of the House, there are only so many ideas that make it to introduction and even fewer that become law. For instance, in the 115th Congress, more than 10,000 bills were introduced in the House, but only 443 were enacted, or signed into law, by the President of the United States. And that was during a two-year period without a pandemic to account for.
ACA is proud to have introduced H.R. 3654 in the 116th Congress and we have enjoyed connecting with so many ACA advocates whose efforts helped secure an impressive 91 cosponsors. One thing is certain as we look back at this Congress: the Chiropractic profession has never been better poised to achieve parity. From conversations with members of Congress who declare, “I love my chiropractor! She is the reason I was able to campaign by foot without pain!” to those who had never before interacted with the profession but became cosponsors after meeting with constituents, the evidence speaks for itself. There is support on Capitol Hill and now is not the time to slow down our efforts.
As “Schoolhouse Rock” taught us, after a bill is referred to committee(s), it could also be referred to a subcommittee, as H.R. 3654 was sent to the Subcommittee on Health based on its subject matter. From there, unless there is action on that bill before the end of a Congress, it will die. Unfortunately, this is the fate that met H.R. 3654 in the 116th Congress, but rest assured the story does not end there.
ACA’s robust Public Policy and Advocacy and Government Relations team has been working with the original sponsors of H.R. 3654 and their staff to ensure that it will be reintroduced in the 117th Congress, and when it is we will be ready (PDF). We will also be working to introduce a Senate companion bill. Even though the bill will be reintroduced with a new number to memorize, the enormous momentum gained in this Congress will continue, but only with your help!
Virtual Advocacy Day Planned in Spring 2021
In Spring 2021, ACA will be hosting a virtual Hill Day to coincide with the reintroduction of our Medicare parity legislation. Although it may look different, virtual meetings have quickly become a dynamic and effective tool for engaging with Congress. As always, the ACA legislative strategy is driven by evidence-based reasoning, insight and intelligence and is highly adaptable to changing environments. We will utilize what worked in the 116th Congress to ensure success in the 117th. Be sure to stay informed on all of this via ACA communications and on our website, acatoday.org.
There is no question that we will be able to surpass 91 cosponsors in 2021. The time for Medicare parity has come and it is up to us to finish the fight. Advocating on behalf of the profession and patients is a long-term effort but one that we know our ACA advocates are well prepared for. The work continues, and in 2021 we will be back.
Meghan O'Brien is ACA's associate director of federal government relations. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.