APTA Federal Government Affairs Leadership Award recipient.
Interview by Kelly Sanders, PT, DPT, OCS, ATC
August 8, 2014
This year, the APTA Federal Government Affairs Leadership Award was given to PPS member Mark Anderson. Established in 2013, this annual award was created to recognize the efforts and achievements of an APTA member in advancing the association’s federal government affairs objectives. We caught up with Mark to discuss his contributions in this area of advocacy and find out what piqued his interest in this important area of APTA service.
Q: Would you share a bit about your background and the roles you have played in the government affairs arena over the years?
A: My interest in government affairs issues started as Utah chapter president. Multiple state issues were brewing, and I tried to take a proactive approach in dealing with issues before they heated up. Rodney Miyasaki, an earlier chapter president, set a great example [by] getting direct access without any opposition. I began going to Washington, D.C., in the early 1990s and made my first Capitol Hill visits in 1994.
Q: What was the catalyst that got you involved in government affairs? Was it a particular issue, person, etc?
A: I learned quickly that Hill staff “made the world go round.” Establishing relationships and providing Congressional staff with information and assistance went a long way. One day, I got a call from a Representative’s chief of staff saying the member was bringing Newt Gingrich (then Speaker of the House) to town. She asked if I could rally our troops to get some people to attend. I quickly reached out to a local physical therapy school and our chapter, and at the end of the day, we had a sizable crowd present for the event. Time and time again, providing needed data and being consistent in messaging has paid off. Over the past 15 years, I have had the opportunity to be an APTA key contact for Orrin Hatch. During this time, I have been able to get to know and work with his health policy advisors. We have established friendships and spent time discussing issues in Washington as well as in our state. I have become very comfortable contacting Senator Hatch’s office whenever we are facing time sensitive issues that affect our profession. I am confident that we provide them with accurate information and information that is focused on our patients.
Q: What issues are you particularly passionate about right now? What do you think are the most important issues facing physical therapy right now?
A: Each year our lobbying efforts focus on three primary issues. Trying to work on more issues seems to take away focus. Depending on the year, we have focused on the therapy cap, direct access, referral for profit, and student loan repayment assistance. During the past 10 years, my number one legislative issue has been the therapy cap and associated limitations. Due to the length of time we have spent on this issue at the Hill, it is very unusual for any of our Congressional contacts to not have a solid understanding of the therapy cap. If you were to ask me what issue I am the most passionate about and the one I love to educate and discuss, it would be referral for profit and the in-office ancillary exceptions. In the past two years we have been able to discuss this issue as a potential way to pay for costs associated with fixing the cap. Congress always wants to know how much a particular issue will cost. It is very nice to report a savings with fixing referral for profit and a budget neutral for student loan assistance.
One of the most enjoyable offshoots of my legislative work has been taking students and other therapists to visit Congress. Planning a visit and assigning speaking points is exciting. Having a new attendee’s experience be a positive experience and watching their confidence build as the day unfolds is exhilarating. Over the years, Kim Cohee (Utah’s APTA key contact) and I have been able to share this experience with a significant number of therapists and students.
In the many years I have been walking through the halls of Congress, I have never felt the urgency of our messages more than I do today. Congress is polarized. Blame is plentiful. If we do not maintain a steady effort in reminding policy makers what is at stake, our patients and our profession will lose all that has been gained.
Kelly Sanders, PT, DPT, OCS, ATC, is a member of the Impact editorial board. She can be reached at Kelly@movementforlife.com.