The America Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) advocates for our profession every day thanks to their expert staff! Members support these efforts through volunteering and their dues, but even if you aren’t a member, you’re benefiting from their work.
That’s the beautify of advocacy right? It isn’t just for one of us, it is for all of us!
Honestly, it is pretty amazing all the things AOTA is able to accomplish on our behalf, so in this episode of the Amplify OT Podcast, I thought I’d introduce you to just a few of the wonderful people working to advance the profession of occupational therapy! In this episode and article, we discuss:
- The primary teams within AOTA (Federal Affairs, Regulatory Affairs, State Affairs, and the Quality Team) that are responsible for advocacy efforts.
- The types of policies that are handled on the state level vs. the federal level.
- Our role in advocacy as practicing clinicians.
- The ways you may already be advocating for OT without even realizing it and how you can use what you’re already doing and apply it in different ways.
I loved my Level II Fieldwork experience at AOTA, and I am excited to share my inside knowledge with you. And just in case you aren’t sure that AOTA membership is worth it, check out this list of reasons why it is! How AOTA membership will make you the ultimate OT advocate.
Podcast: Ep 21. Is AOTA Advocating for You? Meet the team
AOTA Advocacy Teams: Federal Level
There are three teams that primarily advocate for OT at the federal level:
- Federal Affairs (Congressional) Team
- Regulatory Team
- Quality Team
AOTA’s Congressional Federal Affairs Team
The Federal Affairs Team works primarily on lobbying Congress for legislation additions and changes. This team is made up of five people. This is also the team I spend 12 weeks with in the fall of 2017!
We have two and a half full time lobbyists. One lobbyist focuses on education and pediatrics and another on Medicare. Heather Parsons is the VP of the Federal Affairs Team (and an OT); she splits her time with other responsibilities in addition to lobbying for mental health and OTA legislation, making her our “half” lobbyist.
The two members of the Federal Affairs team oversee the American Occupational Therapy Political Action Committee (AOTPAC) as well as grassroots advocacy initiatives like Hill Day and others.
AOTA’s Federal Regulatory Affairs Team
The Regulatory Team focuses on interpreting the policies and laws that are in place primarily at the federal level. There are four people who make up this team. The head of this team keeps an overview and manages the different projects the team is working on. The second member is primarily responsible for all things post-actue care (home health, SNF, IRFs), including disseminating information to practitioners and commenting on proposed rules. Private practice, private insurance, and CMS extra rules are handled by the third member. Last but not least, the final member works on payment policy, CPT® codes, the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule, and MIPS.
So, they have a lot of responsibilities on their plate. Their jobs can often vary depending on what issues are going on at the time but let me tell ya… these folks are true content experts! Having access to their guidance and information is worth the cost of membership alone! That’s right, due to the high volume of questions they get, they have to prioritize questions that come from members. So if you got a problem, be a member!
AOTA’s Quality Team
The Quality Team is responsible for determining what is quality in OT, quality measures, and quality outcomes. These go hand in hand with regulations and payment policies. The quality team has a Quality Director and has members from other teams within AOTA help establish priorities for supporting quality in our profession.
This work can have a very wide scope, but much of it relates to quality measurement, quality outcomes, and ensuring occupational therapy has a seat at the table with these topics.
All of these teams work together to ensure occupational therapy is represented. No single person could do all of this work alone, especially if they are a full-time clinician, which is why it is so important to have these folks advocating on our behalf every single day. They do their job, so we can continue to do ours!
AOTA Advocacy: State Level
The Federal side gets a lot of attention, but state advocacy is just as important! Fortunately, we have our AOTA State Affairs Team plus the state OT associations to support us.
AOTA’s State Affairs Team is responsible for advocating and disseminating information to the state level. This team is made up of four individuals. They coordinate with the State Occupational Therapy Associations and support the advocacy efforts being done at the state level. They work closely with Affiliated State Association Presidents (ASAP).
This common support is really important because it is common for legislation to be introduced in numerous states. So, instead of state associations having to contact every single state association themselves, we are able to contact AOTA and receive help. The state affairs team also has a huge role in the Licensure Compact, licensure laws, Medicaid, and state-based healthcare reform.
State-based advocacy covers so many important topics and each state is different in terms of their laws, their legislature, and more! So here is a very brief list of some of the advocacy efforts that take place at the state level:
- Scope of practice
- How often to renew license
- COTA requirements
- PAMs requirements
- Medicaid reimbursements
Supporting State Associations
State associations play a crucial effort in state advocacy! State associations are often made up entirely of volunteers. So getting involved and being a member of your state association is absolutely essential! The advocacy that they are able to do is directly related to membership and who is involved.
State associations like AOTA often rely on members to keep them up to date on what is happening in the field so they can advocate on your behalf. For some stories about my experience as state association board member, check out episode 21 of the Amplify OT Podcast.
Advocacy isn’t someone else’s problem. It is our problem.
If you’re not already, get your own AOTA membership now! AOTA redid their membership tiers last year and offers monthly and annual payment plans to best fit your budget. So, the question to ask isn’t how can we afford to be a member, it is how can we not?
How much our state associations and AOTA are able to achieve on our behalf is directly related to the number of members they have. This work takes money. State associations can’t afford their websites, their lobbyist, their info mailers, etc without funds from membership dues. AOTA can’t support their staff, hire new staff, or take on new initiatives without members. Just think about how much we could accomplish if every practitioner was a member? 😮
Let’s be honest, you benefit from that work regardless of whether or not you are paying dues. Continuing to advance this great profession takes a village and I want you to be part of that village and that movement! How much the whole profession, or you as an individual, benefits from AOTA depends directly on the number of memberships they have. So if you do one thing, sign up today.
The best way YOU can be an OT advocate is to be a member of AOTA and your state association. By being a member, you are investing in the people who represent you to do the work that you do not have time to do. Being a member of these organizations is an active and engaged way to advocate for OT!
If you’re like me, you invested a lot of money into becoming an OT or OTA, and you have a vested interest in staying an OT or OTA. So if I can pay AOTA to ensure that I am still able to be an OT and get paid for what I do, to me it is worth it. Because all it would take is one bad piece of legislation to threaten reimbursement in a way that could drastically change how OT is utilized in our healthcare system. And I bet that change would cost you far more than any membership ever could. So, let’s work together to advocate for the advancement of OT and to protect it.
Learn how to be an OT advocate with Amplify OT
With Amplify OT, I’m here to support you on your journey to being an informed and empowered OT Advocate! Not everyone identifies with that title, and that is okay, but it is important for you to know that you already have the skills you need to be an effective advocate!
All you may need is some knowledge and some mindset shift to fully own your role as an empowered advocate! To help you with that journey, you can access Amplify OT articles like this one as well as the Amplify OT Podcast. To take a deeper dive, I recommend the Amplify OT Membership.
I’ve put together the info you need to know and put them into resources and course that are easy for any clinician or student to use and implement. This means no more wasting time searching for answers in a Facebook group or online and coming up empty. So, check out the Amplify OT Membership today!
- AOTA: Advocacy
- AOTA: Membership
- AOTA: State Associations
- Amplify OT: Ep 21: is AOTA Advocating for you? Meet the team
- Amplify OT: OT Reimbursement Podcast Playlist and Guide (FREE)
- Amplify OT: Ep 17: Advocacy initiatives for 2022 with Heather Parsons, AOTA’s VP of Federal Affairs
- Amplify OT: Ep 7: OT Licensure Compact with Meghan Puedler from AOTA
- Amplify OT: 10 Reasons an AOTA Membership Will Make You the Ultimate OT Advocate
- Amplify OT: What Alyson Stover, AOTA’s President, thinks about advocacy, leadership, and the OT profession
- Amplify OT: AOTA Membership and Website Gets a Glow Up
Special thanks to Lindsay Bright, OTD/S for her contribution to this article.
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