New Home Health Bill Recognizes OT
The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), Bethesda, Md., has issued a press release revealing that on Dec. 8, U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Dean Heller (R-NV) introduced the Medicare Home Heath Flexibility Act (S. 2364). This bill would allow home health agencies the flexibility to use the most appropriate skilled rehabilitation professionals to open cases and conduct initial assessments when related exclusively to rehabilitation cases and when skilled nursing care is not provided. Currently, occupational therapists are unable to conduct initial assessments in the home health setting.
"This discrepancy causes unnecessary inefficiencies and barriers to providing patients with effective, timely, and appropriate therapy services in the home health setting," said Christina Metzler, chief public affairs officer for the AOTA.
The press release continued that occupational therapy has long been a valued component of the home health care team due to therapists' expertise in identifying home safety issues and in establishing routines to maximize client compliance with the plan of care. This legislation recognizes those contributions and seeks to address the arbitrary restrictions currently in place.
"As our healthcare system continues to evolve and our country's population ages, we must strive to maximize individuals' ability to live fuller, more independent lives," says Metzler. "Patients are increasingly receiving care in home and community settings where occupational therapy plays a pivotal role. We are grateful for Senator Cardin and Heller's leadership in recognizing the value of addressing this discrepancy for Medicare beneficiaries."
Current regulation allows for the initial assessment to be made by the appropriate skilled rehabilitation professional only when the need for that service establishes home health eligibility. Since occupational therapy is not a qualifying service for home health eligibility, practitioners are prohibited from performing the initial assessment.
What are your thoughts about this legislative development and its potential impact on the OT profession?