Delivering Victories for Occupational Therapy During Lame Duck Session
AOTA advocacy resulted in a series of important victories for the profession of occupational therapy and its clients during the lame duck session of Congress. As we reported after the midterm elections, lame duck sessions are challenging because lawmakers must deliberate on many unresolved issues in an unstable political landscape in Congress. AOTA recognized those challenges and worked persistently to ensure that occupational therapy was intricately involved in all facets of health care legislation passed by Congress and signed by President Obama during the past few weeks.
AOTA victories included:
- Extension of the Medicare therapy cap exceptions process through 2011.
- The therapy cap amount for 2011 is $1870.
- Extension of 2010 Medicare rates through 2011, thereby avoiding a 25% pay cut.
- An additional legislative reduction from 25% to 20% for office-based rehabilitation services. This reduction is protected from administrative tampering for at least 10 years.
- The U.S. Senate introduced AOTA’s Medicare Home Health Flexibility Act, marking the first time in several years that AOTA secured introduction of the legislation in both the House and Senate.
These legislative victories could not have been achieved without the diligent support and advocacy from AOTA members,” says Christina Metzler, AOTA chief public affairs officer. “These victories are the result of hard work and consistent advocacy that started early in the year and built to a crescendo last week.”
AOTA advocacy this year continued to be strong and effective. From a record-setting Capitol Hill Day in September to an unprecedented number of Hill visits by AOTA Board members and other leaders in the profession, AOTA’s advocacy and message were consistent.
“The focus of our advocacy was crystal clear,” says AOTA President Florence Clark, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA. “Congress had no choice but to see occupational therapy in high definition. Our consistent message and passionate advocacy delivered results for the profession and the clients we serve.”
The legislative victories did not come easy for AOTA, and Federal Affairs staff had to overcome several obstacles to move the legislative agenda forward. Lawmakers have to find financial resources to enact the provisions like the Medicare therapy cap exceptions process, which costs $900 million for 2011 alone. Congress prioritized the needs of Medicare beneficiaries and found the necessary resources to offset the costs.
“Extending the exceptions process to the therapy cap became a top priority for Congress due to AOTA’s advocacy and education of policymakers,” says Tim Nanof, AOTA Federal Affairs manager. “Because of our success, more than 600,000 Medicare beneficiaries will have access to the rehabilitation services they need to help them live life to its fullest.”
Other victories for occupational therapy include Congress addressing the red flags rule exempting health care professionals from identity theft regulations enacted by the Federal Trade Commission and restoring the implementation of the RUG-IV classification system back to October 1, 2010.
“Overall we had an extremely successful lame duck session,” says Metlzer. “With the holiday season around the corner, it is time to celebrate our victories.”
Introduction of AOTA’s home health bill in the U.S. Senate brings the profession one step close to allowing occupational therapists to open Medicare home health cases and conduct the initial and comprehensive assessments. With the bill introduced in both the House and Senate, moving the legislation forward during the 112th Congress will be a priority for 2011.
“I am very pleased with the culture of advocacy that AOTA members and staff have demonstrated over this past year,” says Clark. “I am inspired that we will have the foundation to support us as we move toward the Centennial Vision.”