Hey readers! Last summer, I took a class where we learned about current policies and how they impact healthcare and OT. I learned a lot in that class, and I thought it would be beneficial for all of you if I shared some of what I learned. We talk a lot about advocacy in OT school, but how do we actually do that on a broad level? We advocate for our patients, of course, but I am talking about advocating for policies and legislation that will impact our day to day lives as OTs. Legislation dictates how much we are reimbursed, whether or not we can open our own cases, whether or not children get recess during school, and the list goes on and on. If we don’t advocate for our profession, we will never grow or improve. So, I will also include tips for how you can get involved in politics and stand up for the things that matter to you. Happy advocating!
The Policy-Making Process
The process of creating a bill and signing it into law is actually quite long and requires a lot of work. First, a congressperson has to write a bill. This bill comes from a need that the congressperson learns about in the community that they are representing. Then, a committee must hold a hearing and propose the bill. The bill then moves into the house and senate through sponsors. The house and senate both have to come to a consensus that the bill should be passed, which can take lots of back and forth where the bill is revised. Finally, the president must sign the bill into law. If he/she does not sign the bill into law, he/she vetos the bill and it goes back to the house and senate for revision.
There are so many bills that need attention that it can take a long time for them to actually get voted on. That’s why it’s important for advocates who care about the legislation to contact their congresspeople and urge them to sponsor the bill. That’s where you come in! People who will be directly impacted by that law, such as OTs, must advocate for (or against) the laws that will impact them. You can learn more about the process of signing a bill into law in this video!
Some important pieces of legislation that have passed in the past include the Social Security Act, the Hill-Burton Act, the Health Manpower Act, Medicare and Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act. These laws all had impacts on healthcare by providing benefits to workers, mothers, children, and individuals with disabilities, expanding healthcare education programs, or providing health insurance to millions of people.
Some topics that I am passionate about include climate change and gun control. Believe it or not, even these topics that don’t seem to be directly related to healthcare will have an impact on OT practice. Climate change will impact the chronic conditions that individuals living in high-risk areas will develop as well as the number of people who live in areas that are affected by natural disasters and who need subsequent OT services. Furthermore, the increase in natural disasters due to climate change requires individuals around the globe to have disaster plans, which is difficult for individuals with disabilities. The topic of gun control impacts OT in that OTs treat individuals who are affected by gun violence. OTs in school systems are also dramatically impacted by this issue due to the traumatizing impact that gun violence and lock-down drills have on children.
As you can see, things that matter to you in your personal life likely matter in OT as well. That’s why it’s important to advocate for what you believe in.
How to be an Advocate
As an OT practitioner or OT student, you can become involved in advocacy in a few ways. First, become an AOTA member if you aren’t already. It is important to support the organization that supports us as OTs and OT students. AOTA has a political action committee, AOTPAC, that you can make a donation to. This committee works to support the profession of OT by supporting members of congress who support OT and by advocating for legislation that impact OT. One major way to advocate for OT through AOTPAC is by joining Hill Day, which I will be doing this year (TODAY if you are reading on the day this is posted!). If you can’t be in Washington, DC for Hill Day this year, you can always participate virtually to help AOTA advocate for three important pieces of legislation. I will report back after I participate in Hill Day about how the day goes, what it is like to advocate for my profession on Capitol Hill and speak to my representatives and/or their staff, and more on the actual pieces of legislation that AOTA is fighting for!
If you are passionate about some of the same topics that I am, you can get involved here: Moms Demand Action, Everytown for Gun Safety, Mothers Out Front, & 350. (Disclaimer: I have never been part of or donated to Mothers Out Front or 350. They are climate change organizations that I found online and I am interested in learning more about. I am not an expert. I am, however, affiliated with Moms Demand Action and Everytown for Gun Safety and I support and believe in their mission, values, and efforts.)
Thanks for reading!