US COPD Coalition

Pulmonary Healthcare Professionals Heading to Capitol Hill


Two member organizations of the US COPD Coalition will be heading to Washington, DC in the coming weeks. Representatives from the American Thoracic Society (ATS) and the American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC) are holding their annual “Hill Days” in an effort to advocate on behalf of the pulmonary patients they serve. While the physicain and respiratory therapist organizations each have their own legislative agendas, both groups have one common goal: to assure that patients with pulmonary disease have access to the best care and the most qualified caregivers.

The American Thoracic Society will be on the Hill on March 28-29. According to Gary Ewart, Chief of Advocacy & Government Relations, the ATS focus this year will be on the Affordable Care Act, tobacco control, research funding and VA burn pit legislation. The ATS will be back in Washington, DC in May for a second advocacy effort. The legislative priorities for May have yet to be finalized.

On April 4th, members of the AARC’s Political Advocacy Contact Team (PACT) from around the country will converge on Capitol Hill to meet with their elected representatives to advocate for improved telehealth legislation. Specifically, the RT’s will be asking Congress to include respiratory therapists as qualified telehealth providers in any telehealth legislation that gets introduced into the 115th Congress. “We believe respiratory therapists are uniquely qualified to provide telehealth services, given their understanding of respiratory disease states ranging from routine outpatient services to the most acute emergency care” notes Anne Marie Hummell, Regulatory Director for the AARC.

Currently, respiratory therapists are not recognized as telehealth providers by Medicare, with the result being that patients with chronic lung disease do not have access to the specialized skill of these healthcare professionals outside of hospitals. The AARC hopes to change that. “Our key message is to ask members [of Congress] to ensure that respiratory therapists are included as telehealth providers in any telehealth legislation introduced in the 115th Congress. Keeping the momentum going from a very successful advocacy effort last year and expanding our opportunities for RTs to be included in several telehealth bills we expect to be reintroduced is important in ensuring that we reach as many of our respiratory patients as possible” added Hummel.

You can learn more about the AARC’s Political Advocacy Contact Team and its efforts to strengthen telehealth legislation by clicking on this link: What is Telehealth and Why Should Respiratory Therapists Care?