Lead Story

Public Interest Government Relations Office (PI-GRO) Continues to Advance Association Priorities for National Health Care Reform

Government relations staff work to shape legislation and address issues like health disparities, the health-care workforce and children's mental health.

With Congress moving at breakneck speed to complete an overhaul this year of the nation's health care system, PI-GRO continues to work diligently to ensure the inclusion of APA's priorities. What follows is an update on some of these activities.

  • Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee.  On June 12, 2009, APA's Public Interest and Education Government Relations Offices sent a letter to Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Mike Enzi (R-WY) in response to draft Health Care Reform legislation, the Affordable Health Choices Act. APA applauded Senator Kennedy's leadership, the bill's aims, and provisions of the legislation that address many important and needed reforms, including efforts to:

    • End the practice of denying health coverage, due to pre-existing medical conditions and disabilities;
    • Promote improved nutrition and physical activity;
    • Expand the School-Based Health Clinic infrastructure;
    • Create standards for accessible medical diagnostic equipment;
    • Promote integrated care;
    • Protect vulnerable populations and address health disparities;
    • Involve professional associations in federal efforts related to health care;
    • Emphasize cultural and linguistic competence, and others.

    In addition, APA made a number of critical recommendations related to longstanding Association priorities.

  • Health Disparities.  PI-GRO staff was invited to the White House June 9 to participate in a Health Care Reform Stakeholder Roundtable Discussion moderated by Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, and Director of the White House Office of Health Reform, Nancy-Ann Deparle. Discussion focused on how health reform can reduce health disparities and address problems associated with the current system.  APA, as the only mental health organization represented, emphasized the reduction and elimination of mental health and mental health care disparities as integral to health care reform. PI-GRO staff also advocated for robust data collection, a culturally and linguistically competent workforce, and psychology's role in eliminating health disparities.

    Furthermore, PI-GRO convened a working group formed by organizations and coalitions with membership exceeding 400 separate organizations and several million individuals to create a cohesive, coordinated mechanism advocating for HCR to address health disparities impacting a diverse group of vulnerable populations.  The working group also works to help create a workforce pipeline that increases the number of minority health professionals and other professionals working in underserved areas.  PI-GRO also urged increased emphasis on cultural and linguistic competence in health curricula.  The special edition of the Communiqué journal produced jointly by OEMA and PI-GRO continues to play a significant role in the recognition of APA's expertise and emphasis on this critical issue.

  • Older Adults.  APA worked as a member of the Eldercare Workforce Alliance (EWA) to coordinate a federal advocacy day to urge Congress to expand and enhance the health care workforce for older adults as part of HCR.  EWA represents 29 national organizations, joined together to address the immediate and future workforce crisis in caring for an aging America. Advocacy activities included visits with key congressional offices responsible for health reform.  Each of these congressional visits included an interdisciplinary team of EWA experts and advocates, representing both the professional and direct care workforce, who focused on the EWA health reform priorities, including several bills and legislative provisions that APA was instrumental in drafting and securing in the HELP Committee draft bill.  In addition, EWA purchased a full page color advertisement in Roll Call, a trade newspaper for legislative matters, highlighting collective health reform priorities and encouraging congressional support for these initiatives.  Furthermore, EWA coordinated a national congressional call-in day for grassroots advocates from around the country.

  • Children's Mental Health. PI-GRO spearheaded outreach to the White House to advance much-needed priorities involving children's mental health in HCR. In collaboration with the Carter Center and the National Center for Children in Poverty, PI-GRO crafted a letter, signed by 61 organizations, calling for HCR to focus on this issue and include specific provisions for:

    • Family-centered infant and early childhood mental health services;
    • A comprehensive financing strategy;
    • A public health approach to children's mental health;
    • Enhancing service delivery to transition age youth;
    • Eliminating health disparities in mental health status and mental health care; and
    • Investing in health professions training and education.
  • Senate Finance Committee.  PI-GRO spearheaded APA's comments to Chairman Baucus (D-MT) and Ranking Member Grassley (R-IA) of the Senate Finance Committee in response to a Committee document concerning health care reform, titled Expanding Health Care Coverage: Proposals to Provide Affordable Coverage to All Americans.