AOPA National Assembly: The Challenge of Change

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"When we change the way we see the world, we change the world."

—Warren Macdonald

Sam Hamontree, CP, presents Ivan R. Sabel, CPO, with the Lifetime Achievement Award during the AOPA National Assembly.

Held September 29-October 2 at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando, Florida, the 93rd National Assembly of the American Orthotic & Prosthetic Association (AOPA) offered its estimated 2,000 registrants a mix of business, clinical, and technical lectures and workshops, 165 exhibitor booths, and myriad live demonstrations. Among other things, sessions focused on steps that practitioners can take to achieve goals and objectives with patients, tackle legislative and regulatory challenges, and master the issues involved in managing an O&P practice.

After spending two days trapped beneath a one-ton boulder during a backcountry hiking trip in 1997, AOPA keynote speaker Warren Macdonald lost both of his legs above the knee. Macdonald kicked off his keynote address on a somewhat sobering note by saying that when it comes to healthcare reform, "We're not out of the woods yet." Then, using his own experiences as a powerful example, Macdonald stressed the importance of being adaptable and changing one's perception to overcome the challenges that lie ahead. "It's amazing what we can do when we adapt," he said. He encouraged practitioners to get involved and focus on the things they can change. "Are you focusing on the summit or the steps?" he asked. "We have got to get involved.... We need to use our voices and take control of our own reality."

Reinforcing Macdonald's message, AOPA Legislative Advocacy award-winner Rick Fleetwood, CEO of Snell Prosthetic & Orthotic Laboratory, Little Rock, Arkansas, said that O&P professionals need to work together to create positive change in Washington. "We have a bigger voice when we speak together," he said. "We can either be at the table, or we can be on the menu."

Working together is something ACA President and CEO Kendra Calhoun discussed during her contribution to AOPA's popular Top Ten series, "Top Ten Tips to Achieve Parity Legislation in Your State." She underscored the importance of organizing, finding champions in the political arena who will forward your cause, and using the media as a tool. (Editor's note: For more information, read "Leveraging Power: How O&P Professionals Can—and Why They Should—Be Involved in Legislation," The O&P EDGE, July 2010.)

Assembly attendees at the Euro International booth in the exhibit hall. Photographs courtesy of AOPA and photographer Craig Huey

Peter W. Thomas, JD, gave an account of the impact government auditors will have on O&P facilities. In his lecture, "Recovery Audit Contracts—RAC—Ready or Not Here They Come," Thomas emphasized the importance of knowing one's rights and responsibilities under the auditing process, offering practical advice on what to do if your practice gets audited and how you can prepare for an audit. (Editor's note: For expanded coverage on this topic, read "The RACs Are Coming: Preparing for Medicare Claims Denials of O&P Care," The O&P EDGE, October 2010.)

Of particular interest to prosthetists was the release of AOPA's Prosthetic Foot Project. The subcommittee discussed details of the report's goals to create "context-based descriptors, testing guidelines, and testing thresholds which differentiate products, and product-to-code(s) assignments."

During its annual business meeting, AOPA announced that its 2011 focus will be on legislative implementation.

The National Assembly wasn't all work and no play. Various networking opportunities and chances to reconnect with fellow practitioners and suppliers were available during exhibit hall receptions and events such as the Orthotic and Prosthetic Group of America (OPGA) poolside party, the O&P PAC Wine Tasting and Auction, and a night out on the town at Universal Orlando's CityWalk Entertainment District.

Next year's AOPA National Assembly will be held September 19-22 at The Mirage Resort & Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada.

—Laura Hochnadel