New faces, old friends on Capitol Hill

APA Executive Director for Professional Practice Katherine C. Nordal, PhD, shares her perspective on the new Congress and APAPO's legislative advocacy priorities.

by Katherine C. Nordal, PhD

Katherine Nordal, PhDNews that the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation to repeal the health care reform law enacted last year reminded me that it’s a new day on Capitol Hill – once again.

The House action is being described as essentially symbolic since the repeal legislation is unlikely to proceed. With a Democratic-controlled Senate and a substantial Republican majority in the House, we expect a heavy dose of partisan wrangling for at least the next two years. The two chambers do not see eye to eye on health care reform and other crucial issues for professional psychology.

If history is an indication, it will be more difficult than in recent years for the APA Practice Organization to advance our legislative advocacy goals. Fiscal conservatism will reign, especially in the House, posing a major challenge for our Medicare reimbursement efforts on behalf of practitioners.

In short, tough battles lie ahead. We’re likely to be more on defense than offense.

Yet history should also support our work. We’ve spent many years cultivating strong allies on Capitol Hill. And we’re already joining forces with both Democratic and Republican friends in the House and Senate who are serving as bill sponsors and otherwise supporting our legislative advocacy activities.

These allies include:

  • Rep. Janice Schakowsky (D-IL), intended sponsor of a bill to include psychologists in the Medicare definition of “physician”

  • Reps. Paul Tonko (D-NY), Lois Capps (D-CA) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), who support reversing Medicare payment cuts that disproportionately affect psychologists 

  • Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), who back our efforts to fully include psychologists in federal incentives to adopt health information technology

Other members, such as Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), also will be helpful to psychology in the 112th Congress. These advocates for professional psychology will be joined by new supporters to help build on the legacy of our mental health champions from years past – Sen. Edward Kennedy and Rep. Patrick Kennedy, Sens. Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici, to name just a few.

While the road ahead may be bumpy, we won’t be going it alone.