By: Jim Broyles, PhD, OPA President
Those of you who read my last post may recall I wrote about preparing to attend APA’s State Leadership Conference. The conference occurred in Washington, D.C. March 9-12, and OPA was well represented by our strong delegation. As I described in my earlier in my post, the conference provides a wonderful opportunity for OPA leaders to expand their knowledge and develop skills key to supporting Ohio psychologists. The four day conference proceeds at hectic pace from morning until evening, often leaving only time for sleeping. Our leaders return home armed with ideas, inspiration, a network of connections, and motivation to continue serving our profession here in Ohio.
The highlight of the event, and perhaps the most important purpose for the conference, was the visit to Capitol Hill. On Tuesday, March 12, the office of each member of Congress was visited by a group of psychologists participating in the State Leadership Conference. Legislative aides (or in some cases the members themselves) met with psychologists from their state to hear about issues which are highly relevant for psychologists. The event served as an opportunity for all members of our Congress to meet with a psychologist, know who we are, better understand our issues, and either create or reaffirm a connection to members of our profession. The event allowed those of us who participated to be present and visible for our national legislators, and to help them understand the importance of our profession and how they can support what we do.
APA provided training for all of us who participated in the event. We were briefed on relevant facts associated with the issues and specific ideas on presenting them. A main issue we addressed was the eroding reimbursement rates from Medicare for the services of psychologists. A number of factors are affecting these declining rates, and we addressed each of these in a way that helped the representative understand what she or he could do to prevent further cuts. When I consider the fact that most private health insurance companies base their rates on Medicare rates, I recognize that our advocacy work that day was enormously important to psychologists in Ohio. Another item addressed was a request to support legislation (BHIT Act) which would enable psychologists to qualify for Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments for integrating electronic health records (EHR) into their practices. Providing this financial support is essential for allowing psychologists and mental health to be a part of newly emerging integrated health care models. This is, again, crucial advocacy for psychologists in Ohio.
For me, participating in this conference and doing this kind of advocacy work is the experience of a lifetime. It has been worth the work of being OPA President to be a part of such experiences. I encourage any OPA member who has interest in advocacy work to consider stepping forward to be a part of OPA leadership, a member of our advocacy committee, or a participant in our upcoming Legislative Day on May 22. The resulting sense of fulfillment in being able to positively impact our profession is well worth the effort.