Federal Legislative Issues Update - March 2011
Congressional debate about the Federal budget continues to dominate Capitol Hill with Democrats and Republicans still unable to agree on how best to fund the government. House republicans and Senate Democrats have so far been unable to reach a consensus on a long term budget and have been forced to pass two temporary continuing resolutions to avoid a government shut down, which included $6 billion dollars in cuts to the federal budget. It is uncertain whether an agreement on a longer term solution will be reached before the second continuing resolution expires on April 8th forcing a government shut down.
The debate is largely split down party lines and focused on how much to cut from the Federal budget, with Republicans calling for far greater cuts then arte palatable to their Democratic colleagues, who fear over reaching, could adversely affect the still fragile recovery of the US economy. These proposed cuts have the potential to affect funding for Departments and government agencies critical to the profession and the clients we serve, including the National Institute of Health (NIH), and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) making identifying and addressing these potential cuts critical.
AOTA is actively working in concert with several coalitions including the Coalition for Health Funding, and the Friends of HRSA coalition to address important funding issues.
Healthcare is a hot topic, from capital hill to hospital rooms people are talking about the Affordable Care Act. “What is actually in the legislation?” “When are things going into effect?”, “How is this going to affect my work?”, and “How is this going to affect my patients?” All of these questions and more are on the minds of occupational therapist across the country. With initial implementation starting in 2010, like new options to help individuals on Medicaid to receive community-based healthcare, mandates for improved coordination of care for people with dual diagnoses and insurance coverage for preventative care, OTs are being impacted across all practice areas. As 2014 approaches, when many of the bill’s requirements go into place, including the insurance exchanges with the “essential benefits” requirement for all exchange plans, AOTA is working hard to make sure OT’s are not left behind in preventative care, primary care, mental health and community-based services.
On Friday April 15th at the 2011 AOTA 91st annual national conference in Philadelphia, AOTA will be holding a town hall meeting (2pm-3pm CC203 A/B) to answer questions, respond to concerns about the Affordable Care Act and describe AOTA’s efforts to maintain occupational therapy’s status in allied health and promote its growth into new, growing practice areas.
Please read AOTA’s March 2011 Federal Legislative Update for more information about issues critical to occupational therapy.
Medicare Part B Outpatient Therapy Caps
While AOTA was successful in securing an extension of the exceptions process through the end of the year, finding a long term solution remains critical to the profession of occupational therapy and the patients we serve. AOTA is actively working in coalition with other groups and with our champions on Capital Hill to reintroduce the Medicare Access to Rehabilitation Services Act, formerly H.R. 43/S.46, in the 112th Congress to fully repeal the arbitrary annual cap on critical occupational therapy services.
To support AOTA’s efforts in securing strong bi-partisan support in both chambers of Congress, we urge you to utilize AOTA’s legislative action center to contact your representatives in both chambers of Congress to urge their support for this important issue.
Making Occupational Therapy an Initiating Service in Medicare Home Health
AOTA continues its work towards making occupational therapy an initiating service in Medicare home health and is currently working towards reintroduction of the Medicare Home Health Flexibility Act (formerly H.R.1094/S. 3978).
Senator Tim Johnson and Representative John Lewis have agreed to reintroduction of this important legislation and AOTA continues to work to secure strong bi-partisan support in both the House and Senate. Utilize AOTA’s legislative action center to contact your representatives in both chambers of Congress to urge their support for this important legislation.
Multiple Procedure Payment Reduction (MPPR)
AOTA has met with representatives from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to discuss the Multiple Procedure Payment Reduction (MPPR) rule. AOTA will be focusing on the distinct nature of occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech language pathology in providing effective, medically necessary care and the need to recognize this distinction when implementing Medicare payment policy. AOTA continues to exhaust all available avenues to address this harmful, arbitrary cut to reimbursement.
Community Living Services and Support Act (CLASS)
Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius continues to work towards implementation of the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act (CLASS) which was authorized as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The CLASS act is a voluntary program that affords individuals the ability to obtain reliable long-term care coverage. Learn more about CLASS.
Orthotics and Prosthetics Legislation to be Re-introduced
AOTA has worked hard over the past several years to protect the scope of occupational therapy practice related to orthotics and prosthetics care. AOTA has worked with the orthotic and prosthetic associations to be sure that proposed legislation would not unduly restrict OTpractice. After opposing the legislation for several years AOTA has worked out and agreement to exempt occupational therapist from additional certification requirements and protected the full scope of OT in this area. The legislation, likely to be re-introduced by Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV), is a significant improvement over earlier versions and AOTA looks forward to continuing to work with Congress and the orthotics and prosthetics community to improve quality care for Medicare beneficiaries.
Essential Benefits Under Health Reform Law
AOTA continues to work with Congress, Federal Agencies and key stakeholders such as the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and the Institute of Medicine as the Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act (P.L. 111-148) is implemented. Of scope interest is the definition of and range of services covered under the required category of rehabilitation, habilitation and devices. AOTA is working to achieve implementation of this category in a way that provides full access to occupational therapy. AOTA will be working to educate stakeholders and policy makers about the unique role and value of occupational therapy as well as highlighting the critical importance of both rehabilitative and habilitative services.
AOTPAC is gearing up for the AOTA Annual Conference in Philadelphia. Plans are set for AOTPAC Night, Saturday, 4/16/11, for the KaraOTe Idol III contest. All are welcome to participate, and we are encouraging students to participate as a group to represent your school. AOTPAC Board members and AOTA lobby staff will be available at the AOTPAC Booth in the conference registration area of the convention center to answer your questions about legislative and political activities for OT. AOTPAC Chair, Amy Lamb, will be presenting to leadership groups during their meetings prior to the start of the conference.
The board set a fundraising goal of $225,000 for calendar year 2011. AOTA members are encouraged to support these efforts with contributions throughout the year.
AOTPAC is assisting the AOTA Federal Affairs team to identify key grassroots contacts for specific members of Congress in an effort to enhance AOTA’s grassroots lobbying efforts. If you know a member of Congress or their family or staff, please let us know. That connection is important and could help in our efforts to advocate for OT.