From Stillwater-Ponca City (OK) Ostomy Outlook Jan 2003:

UOA 2002 Advocacy Report

by Linda Aukett, Chair of UOA Government Affairs Committee, transmitted by e-mail on Jan 1, 2003 to members of UOA's Action E-List

Happy New Year!

After looking over some statistics for activity on the UOA Advocacy page during the past year, it is timely to let you know what that activity was, and the result it obtained for UOA and our members. We owe a great debt of gratitude to those of you who have taken advantage of the Advocacy page to contact your elected officials on behalf of UOA.

First some raw numbers:

  • 2,545 email messages were sent through the communication function of the Advocacy page. (There may have been additional ones printed and mailed -- we don't have a way to tally those unless you let us know you have done it.)
  • While some of those went to media outlets and US agencies, the vast majority (2,291) went to members of Congress.
  • Every US Senator received a message about at least one UOA issue (in fact, every Senator received at least two messages).
  • 433, or all but 2, US Representatives received at least one message.
  • Florida and Texas letter-writers lead the pack, with 121 messages to Senator Bob Graham, 112 to Senator Bill Nelson, and 86 each to Senator Phil Gramm and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. Other states with highly-active letter-writers include California, Illinois, Nebraska, Massachusetts and Michigan.
  • Letter-writers were very responsive to our requests for letters on the major issues of 2002:
  • 388 messages asked elected officials to intercede with CMS to retain the Medicare codes that were put in place as of 4/1/02;
  • another 173 letters were sent to thank Members of Congress for their support that achieved those 4/1/02 codes to begin with;
  • 329 messages asked for support of the "IBD Act";
  • 272 messages urged officials NOT to support the concept of competitive bidding for durable medical equipment, and an additional 251 messages specifically opposed Senator Graham's bill for competitive bidding (S.3098).

Now, the outcomes:

Our letters about retaining the Medicare codes had some indirect benefits in the overall campaign. Only a few Congressmen actually wrote letters to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on the issue, but we know that phone calls and other inquiries were made to CMS, heightening their awareness that this was an area of concern. In the long run, the 4/1 codes that recognize "pouch features" such as filters have been repealed and a new code system put in place (more about that elsewhere).

However, CMS DID listen to our concerns about the very low reimbursement levels that existed, and they DID agree to base fee schedules for the new system on current pricing -- this is a major concession on their part that would not have happened if it were not for the heightened awareness that your letters caused.

Another bit of evidence about this is that the CMS administrator made a comment in a Senate committee hearing about the number of letters his office received on the issue of low reimbursement rates for ostomy supplies. It was arranged that his office would receive a copy of each letter you sent to Congress on that issue.

Although this bill did not come up for a vote in the session of Congress that concluded in early December, this is not unusual for a new bill. Co-sponsorship has grown as a result of our letters, and this really improves the chances that the bill will be successful in the long run.

One feature of this particular campaign should be noted, and applauded. The issue of IBD caused you--UOA members--to ask your friends and relatives to come to the UOA Advocacy page and send a message -- even though they are not chapter or association members. We are very grateful for that.

We also hope that you will do the same for other issues in the future ... you don't have to have a stoma to educate an elected official that ostomy products should be reimbursed fairly.

The entire durable medical equipment industry heaved a sigh of relief when Congress adjourned without passing a bill that would impose competitive bidding in some part of the US (except for two test areas that have been ongoing). However, there are some very strong proponents of this as a way to control Medicare costs and to find funds to pay for other desirable things such as a prescription drug plan. The campaign is not over but only taking a break.

Still, there has been some evidence that one of the strongest proponents, Florida's Senator Graham, is slightly less committed to it than he was. We think we can take at least a little credit for that, as our FL colleagues generated a very high volume of "noise" on this issue.

There is no doubt, though, that the issue will return when Congress reconvenes, and we will have to continue to educate our elected officials that competitive bidding is inappropriate as a method for providing ostomy supplies (or other DME).

We hope we can count on your continued support and activity on these and other issues as they arise. The Government Affairs Committee will continue to be actively engaged in a variety of advocacy-related areas, but we rely very heavily on YOU to interpret the issues to YOUR elected officials, educate them about how the issue affects YOUR life and, as one of their constituents, seek their action and assistance.


We hope you have had a chance to see the new UOA website design, and that you will bookmark the location of the Advocacy page Visit on a regular basis and note the new look within the Advocacy page that will be introduced over the next few weeks. We will try to more clearly define news items, and (in the best New Year's Resolution tradition) put the Advocacy home page on a diet, highlighting there only the most urgent issues.

This plan emerges from a recent conference call with a technical advisor at Capitol Advantage (from whom we "rent" the communication software), who says we are doing better than many of their customers, but can still take some steps to maximize the usefulness of the page. The planned "tweaking" will make it more user-friendly for you and will help us more effectively achieve our ultimate objective of impacting on the public policy decisions that affect us.

Three things YOU can do, if you would, please:

  1. Please inform others in your chapter that the Advocacy page exists and ask them to join the "Action E-list" as you have. See the "Pass the Word" section at the very bottom of the front page for a quick and easy way. Tell your chapter newsletter editor, your chapter's webmaster, etc.
  2. When specific issues arise, please encourage other chapter members, family and friends to visit the site and send their own message.
  3. Note that in future we will often ask you to fill in your own "subject" when you send a letter to your Members of Congress. It has been pointed out to us that if a Senator gets 10 or 15 letters with the same subject heading, their staff is quick to realize that some organization is orchestrating the message -- and might begin to ignore other letters with the same subject at the top. This really defeats the process, as we want additional messages to be read and to be reinforcements of our view.
    Our message text will still be there (and we do hope you will enhance it with some personal information) -- all we ask is that you compose your own subject field, so the messages look a bit more individual when they are received in Congressional offices.

THANK YOU AGAIN for all your help and support in 2002. We look forward to working with you in 2003 to help other UOA members and to achieve public policy decisions that will be good for people with an ostomy.

Back to Stillwater-Ponca City UOA Newsletter Index
This page is maintained by the OstomyOK webmaster
Content last revised 2003-01-07