The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, often referred to simply as the ACA or Obamacare, was signed into law on March 23, 2010. The ACA is intended to expand access to health insurance coverage for millions of uninsured Americans by expanding eligibility for Medicaid and developing health insurance marketplaces where uninsured persons may be eligible for subsidies to make private health plans more affordable. While expanding access to health insurance is a big part of the ACA, there are many other purposes of the law, including provisions intended to reform the health care delivery system to produce better patient outcomes at lower cost.
AOTA was very active in the legislative process leading up to the passage and signing of the ACA, working to achieve victories such as inclusion of rehabilitation and habilitation in the essential health benefits package. AOTA has also been monitorting the regulatory process at the federal and state levels as the ACA has been implemented, and has been advocating for occupational therapy practitioners and consumers. The dynamic environment created by health care reform creates opportunities, but vigilant monitoring of implementation activities and carefully executed advocacy efforts are necessary to ensure occupational therapy is valued and protected in the future.
Please also see the Health Care Reform Implementation page on AOTA's website at: http://www.aota.org/Advocacy-Policy/Health-Care-Reform.aspx
This is one of the most important implications of the ACA for occupational therapy practitioners and consumers, and you're likely to read a lot about it on this blog. Thanks to advocacy by AOTA and allied organizations, the ACA requires coverage of habilitative services as essential health benefits for millions of newly insured people who will be purchasing private health plans on health insurance exchanges, or obtaining coverage through states' Medicaid expansions. There will be a lot of variation around the country in terms of how habilitative services are covered, but there are a few key things to realize.
All is not perfect with these new requirements. There's a lot of advocacy work that remains to be done before habilitative occupational therapy services are available to anyone for whom they are clinically appropriate, but a significant positive step was taken with the ACA. Read more about this issue and some of the remaining challenges in Kaiser Health News.