A virtual force of advocates landed on Capitol Hill May 6 for ACA’s Advocacy Day. About 350 doctors of chiropractic and students—armed with data as well as stories of patients who have benefitted from chiropractic care—entered the halls of Congress via virtual meetings to urge support for H.R. 2654, the Chiropractic Medicare Modernization Act. The bill was introduced in late April with 16 original cosponsors, but thanks to the efforts of the chiropractic advocates it won additional support and, to date, features 43 congressional cosponsors.
“H.R. 2654 has a long road before it becomes law; however, with the ongoing support, passion and enthusiasm we are seeing from around the profession to finally get the Medicare laws updated, I feel very confident that we can be successful this congressional session,” said Keith Overland, DC, chair of ACA’s Legislative Committee.
Even those who were not able to attend Advocacy Day can and should still show their support for H.R. 2654 by going to www.HR2654.org and sending a message to their member of the U.S. House of Representatives. The site features a link that will automatically generate an email that you can customize and that will send the message directly to your representative with the click of a button.
“Virtual lobbying is now the way of the world, and in many cases, it’s here to stay,” added John Falardeau, ACA senior vice president of public policy and advocacy. “I firmly believe nothing beats a face-to-face meeting, but we were able to adapt and improvise to get our message across effectively. I especially want to thank our member doctors and students for their stellar work in helping make the event a success.”
“We couldn’t be more proud of our ACA advocates, especially this year,” added Meghan O’Brien, ACA associate director of federal government relations. “Our doctors and students prepared well for their meetings and adapted quickly to the ‘new normal.’ Feedback from the Hill has also been very positive; the day was definitely a success!”
Virtual Advocates on the Ground
The idea of a completely virtual Advocacy Day may have been concerning for some of the past participants of ACA’s advocacy events on Capitol Hill, but most found the experience to be surprisingly easy to adapt to and equally productive.
“In Pennsylvania, we had at least 16 and maybe as many as 20 meetings. We had about 24 participants. We should be up to at least eight cosponsors soon,” explained ACA Pennsylvania delegate Daniel Schatzberg, DC. “We had four going in and four more committed [after the meetings]. We expect to get to 15 cosponsors fairly soon and will then be working on our last three. The staff of both of our senators asked us to circle back with them as soon as the Senate companion bill drops. Pennsylvania had a solid day!”
“I thoroughly enjoyed stepping out of a treatment room into the office of an important legislator with some of the finest and brightest colleagues in the room,” added Kelli Pearson, DC, who, along with over 20 other members of the Washington delegation, met with 11 legislators of that state.
One of the highlights of the day for ACA’s Oregon delegate Vern Saboe, DC, was meeting with his good friend and congressman, Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.). “Since 2008 he has always done whatever is necessary on his end to make sure he personally attends our meetings,” Dr. Saboe explained. “Kurt and I have also known each other and worked together dating back to 2001 when he was a state senator in Oregon.”
Students Motivated by Sense of Purpose
Even some students who wondered if they would feel the same level of enthusiasm as they embarked on their congressional meetings were pleasantly surprised by the sense of excitement and purpose they were left with after their virtual meeting experiences.
“The virtual platform enabled a comfortable, efficient, and enjoyable atmosphere with which to meet our congressional representatives and their staff, and the conversations held were just as fruitful, if not even more so than in a normal year,” reported Ben Degenhardt, legislative chair of the Student ACA (SACA). “Moving between meetings was fluid, relaxed and motivating as students and doctors came together to advocate for our patients in the way we do every year at the Capitol. The conversations were comfortably familiar, and the same welcoming, hospitable environment normally found in Washington remained present throughout the day.”
“It was wonderful to be part of a united front with our current classmates and recent graduates,” added Caitlin Jones, SACA legislative vice chair. “Hearing how new chiropractors who have been in practice for just over six months were affected by the current state of Medicare coverage, and having to navigate how to provide their patients the best care, was motivating and bolstering. Throughout the country, and across the entire day, students still found the same passion for advocacy, and a deeper understanding of the need for these changes to improve access to vital care for our patients. We will all be excited to watch the number of cosponsors for H.R. 2654 continue to rise as we follow up on these meetings and continue working for our patients until this legislation is passed.”