AOTA Advocates for Consumers
By Andrew Waite
As AOTA’s director of Federal Affairs and one of AOTA’s three registered federal lobbyists, Tim Nanof is accustomed to speaking on your behalf. But did you know he is also speaking on your clients’ behalf?
Andrew Waite is the associate editor of OT Practice. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
In addition to Nanof’s primary role with AOTA, he also serves as co-chair for the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) health task force.
“AOTA participates in CCD because we want to understand, keep abreast of, and support the agenda for protecting and advancing the interests of people with disabilities. That connection helps AOTA remain focused not only on the needs of members, but also on the needs of the populations that our members serve,” Nanof said.
Nanof’s involvement with CCD takes just a few hours per week, but it is an important role.
As co-chair of the CCD health care task force, Nanof recently had the opportunity to meet with the federal agency responsible for implementing the health insurance exchanges established by the Affordable Care Act.
Specifically, Nanof told leaders of the Center for Consumer Information in Insurance Oversight (CCIIO) about the need for the exchanges to be accessible to consumers with disabilities.
“We started the meeting with a discussion about general compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act as it relates to accessibility of government documents and Web sites. That was all something they had taken into account and planned on. What they hadn’t focused on as much were the specific impacts of disability on the enrollment process, and we highlighted the need for very high level training for the navigators of the program,” he said.
The Affordable Care Act specifies that there will be health exchange navigators who will help people sign up for insurance plans, but those navigators have to be trained to understand how to work with people with disabilities, Nanof explained.
“I quickly found out that CCIIO was very open to this meeting, and they wanted my input and feedback. They were concerned about the challenges and complexity of enrollment for everyone in general. And they hadn’t even begun to look at the process of adding in people with cognitive and physical disabilities,” he said. “The needs of people with physical, cognitive, developmental, and intellectual disabilities as well as people with mental health and behavioral conditions must be considered in regard to how they can complete the enrollment process.”
This meeting was just the latest example of how AOTA’s involvement with CCD broadens its ability to be an advocate for consumers and disability rights. Through his role as CCD co-chair, Nanof has met with the White House Administration for Community Living to discuss how to get people with disabilities more engaged with the community, with the United States Social Security Administration to discuss disability eligibility, and with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office on Disability to discuss employment options and rights for people with disabilities.
“Through our involvement with CCD, we are connected to the interests and issues of the consumer and disability community, and through that process we will get requests for support for a range of issues such as informed consent for psychiatric medication use in nursing facilities or increased coverage of diabetes or epilepsy medications that don’t directly impact occupational therapy, but, upon review, are a positive thing for those populations,” Nanof said. “So, through CCD, we will sign onto causes that don’t have an immediate connection with occupational therapy but are good for consumers and good policy in general.”