Why it Matters to Me and Why it Should Matter to You.
When working in healthcare, understanding the environment goes beyond the patients you serve. Understanding how an industry is structured from the ground up is critical. What pays for the services you’ve just provided and billed? I went to school to learn how to identify an individual’s problem and provide interventions. I never went to school to understand how the code I chose to bill or the words I chose to best narrate my treatment session determines my livelihood.
You study and take the classes to pass the tests, which will lead to graduating from the program and then going on to get a job. Once you’ve landed the job, you work to ensure you’re following the rules and regulations set forth by your licensing board and organization. But what about the rules and regulations set forth by the bodies that actually pay for the services you provide? I didn’t go to school expecting that one of my responsibilities would be to prove to my governing bodies that my services are worth reimbursement or value at all. I became a therapist to help people. But in the environment I now find myself, “helping people” means I need to fight for myself and the value of the services I can provide for those who need it most.
If we don’t start fighting for ourselves, there will be very few of us left to continue caring for those that brought us to this field—our aging population. That’s a frightening place to find ourselves— a system in which our loved ones that require skilled or long-term nursing care are suffering or, worse, dying because there aren’t enough resources to care for them. Is that when the change will happen? That’s a scary thought.
How has the media portrayed long-term care? Doesn’t it make you mad? Frankly, it’s disheartening, deflating, infuriating, and somedays feels hopeless. So now we’re dealing with ongoing cuts for our services, estimated at about 30% so far in the last ten years, and more cuts on the table for the upcoming year, paired with a media villainized industry. All we hear nowadays is that nursing homes and partnering vendors, I.e. therapy providers, like us, take their share and provide poor care. False truths can be just as dangerous as a lack of knowledge. Hearing in the news how there will be consequences for our mismanagement of the COVID pandemic continues to drive us to the tipping point. We know what the battlefield really looked like inside this pandemic and the resilience of those who came every day to do the best they could to take care of our residents without a blueprint for a pandemic in the 21st century. And the care we provide today is no less impactful or valuable than it was 10 or 15 years ago.
What’s the best way to get involved? We know not everyone has the ability or desire to march to DC and talk to lawmakers. But as an individual that is part of this space, it’s critical that we tell our stories and ban together. Advocacy works. And, although it may feel like our voices are not always heard, resilience, and persistence do pay off. In fact, CMS announced in July that as a compromise for providers, regulators will phase in recalibrated payments over a two-year period rather than all at once, which is progress and movement in the right direction.
Morale of the story… Keep fighting.
Here are 5 ways to immediately get involved with advocacy:
About the author:
Masha Cherpakov M.S.,CCC-SLP, RAC-CT
Regional Vice President
Masha started with Encore in 2015 as a staff Speech Language Pathologist and currently serves as a Regional Vice President in Ohio. Passionate about the geriatric population and advocacy, she has recently joined the NASL 2022 Class of Emerging Leaders, where she participates in visits to the hill to promote change and value in our industry to our policy makers. Her mission is to provide all with an opportunity to make their voices heard.