By ACA President Michele Maiers, DC, MPH, PhD
With the backdrop of a global pandemic, it is an understatement to say that the past year has presented a few challenges to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA) and its members. But what could have been a year lost has turned out to be a year of gains. This is no coincidence: ACA’s leadership, members and staff pulled together, adapting in large ways and small, to ensure there would be progress toward the goals that support our Strategic Plan.
ACA’s Strategic Plan (see image below) is divided into five focus areas. Each contributes to a different, yet vital, aspect of our association’s success and health. As June (and our fiscal year) comes to an end, I am delighted to share a few highlights of what was accomplished in support of the Plan—none of which, I should add, would have been possible without the unflappable support of ACA members.
Advance Professional Parity
To support the advancement of professional parity for doctors of chiropractic, ACA pursues public and private reimbursement parity through activities such as advocating for our legislative priorities and payment policy reforms as well as launching and strengthening working collaborations with aligned organizations. Highlights in this area follow:
Without a doubt, the reintroduction of our parity bill, the Chiropractic Medicare Coverage Modernization Act, has been the top story over the past two years. The original bill, which was sidelined by Congress’ need to focus on pandemic relief in early 2020, still managed to end the 116th Congress with 91 cosponsors. In April of this year, Congress reintroduced the legislation and, to date, the bill (now H.R. 2654) has 63 congressional cosponsors.
- There is powerful momentum behind H.R. 2654 and ACA is committed to seeing it through to passage. In 2020 alone, ACA lobbyists and its member advocates met with more than 300 legislators to urge their support. This year, ACA adapted its annual Advocacy Day on the Hill into a virtual format that enabled groups of members to meet with congressional members and their staff as they normally would, exchanging data as well as powerful stories of how chiropractic helps patients and improves outcomes.
- ACA continues to reach out to a range of chiropractic stakeholders to increase grassroots support for H.R. 2654. This includes ChiroCongress (which has a representative on ACA’s Legislative Committee expressly for this purpose), Clinical Compass, the Association of Chiropractic Colleges, the American Black Chiropractic Association, NCMIC, and many state associations.
- One of ACA’s most important activities early in the pandemic was to ensure chiropractic’s place on the Department of Homeland Security’s list of essential workers. Many states used DHS’ list as a model for their own. The profession’s inclusion on the DHS list enabled many doctors of chiropractic to continue to provide essential care to their patients, some of whom (healthcare personnel, grocery store workers and truck drivers) were needed on the front lines of the pandemic.
- To ensure parity in research funding, ACA drafted and submitted testimony on fiscal year 2022 federal appropriations for the National Institutes of Health and National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH). The testimony highlighted the importance of federal funding for integrative health from a chiropractic perspective and supplemented comments ACA submitted in 2020 regarding NCCIH’s five-year strategic plan.
Strengthen ACA’s Chiropractic Field Leadership
To strengthen ACA’s field leadership in the profession, the association supports its specialty councils in growing membership and aligning more closely with ACA, expanding its state affiliate program, and creating more opportunities for collaboration with external stakeholders. Among our advancements over the past year:
ACA expanded its State Affiliate Program to 12 chiropractic state associations. Participating states include California, Connecticut, Indiana, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Texas.
- Over the past two years, ACA also strengthened collaborations with the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, AARP, MedPAC, Voices for Non-Opioid Choices, the American Telehealth Association, PCORI, and the Alliance for Balanced Pain Management. Each organization is aligned with ACA in respect to specific policy goals and legislative agendas, creating more opportunities to advance chiropractic interests.
Enhance ACA’s Position as the Standard Bearer of Chiropractic
ACA takes its role as the standard bearer of chiropractic seriously. We champion research and partner on research initiatives with key industry stakeholders in support of patient-centered chiropractic care. ACA also works to nurture learning around business-related and clinical topics such as practice guidelines, practice management, and ethics and professionalism. Among our activities over the past year:
ACA’s Committee on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) held the association’s first-ever EDI Forum in late 2020 to explore diversity issues and challenges in the chiropractic profession. The EDI Forum featured a diverse panel of chiropractors who shared not only relevant data but also their personal experiences and thoughts on how diversity in the chiropractic profession can be improved. A special leadership roundtable on EDI issues was also convened.
- ACA’s first Faculty Symposium was originally planned as an in-person event, but pandemic concerns forced organizers to transform it into a virtual meeting in June 2020. The change also enabled ACA to lower the registration rate and invite a wider representation of educators, resulting in a highly well-attended event rich with content and networking opportunities. The 2021 Faculty Symposium was held again this month as a virtual meeting, offering the almost 100 attendees a selection of five education sessions.
- ACA works year-round with mass media and industry media to enhance the profession and ACA’s cultural authority by providing accurate information as well as interviews with clinical and policy experts. ACA is regularly sourced and mentioned in the mass media on key healthcare topics. During the pandemic, ACA was a primary source for many major media outlets on the topic of work-from-injuries. Our experts were quoted in articles in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times.
- During the past year, it has been important to meet the media and consumers where they are—dealing with issues related to the pandemic. ACA created content and resources (in English and Spanish) for National Chiropractic Health Month (NCHM) 2020 that encouraged people to stay healthy by being “Active and Adaptive” during the pandemic. The message resonated: ACA enjoyed a 119% increase in reach over the previous year.
- Finally, to strengthen the appeal and value of its learning programs, ACA expanded its CE credit approval to four additional states: New York, Michigan, Missouri, California and Georgia.
Enhance ACA’s Financial Stability and Sustainability
ACA was fortunate over the past year to increase revenue generated through corporate members, conference sponsors, endorsements and advertising, which together diversity our revenue, lead to greater stability and will eventually help us reach our goal of having 25 percent of ACA revenue come from non-dues sources.
In respect to long-term membership sustainability, ACA also continues efforts to add more diversity to its leadership, which will better reflect the full field of doctors of chiropractic in the United States and attract new members.
Inspire ACA Members to Embrace Professional Pride
To increase professional pride among members of the chiropractic profession, ACA champions research and programs that measure and support the essential role and value of the chiropractic profession. To this end:
ACA developed and launched a consumer-focused website in November 2020, HandsDownBetter.org, providing the public with clear messaging and information about chiropractic. The site serves as the platform for all public outreach, including National Chiropractic Health Month and mass media.
- ACA launched an improved Find-A-Doctor online search tool this past year, featuring state-of-the-art geo locating which enables people to more easily find ACA members in their area.
- ACA also launched a print on-demand service this year for patient-centered materials that can be used by chiropractors and their staff to educate people on health topics as well as urge them to support pro-chiropractic legislation.
I am deeply impressed by how much ACA members—through direct efforts and their membership support—accomplished during this challenging time. It lends proof of this profession’s strong commitment to serve patients no matter what the circumstances and to elevate the health and wellness of communities nationwide.