AOTA Federal Policy is a blog maintained by AOTA’s Federal and Regulatory Affairs Departments, covering the latest happenings in Congress, the White House, and across the federal agencies. While the battles of Washington often seem far removed from your role as a practitioner, student, educator, or business owner, public policy undoubtedly shapes the way you practice, what you are paid, and who you’re able to see. We hope this blog serves as a means to bring you closer to the process and keep you up to date on the latest federal issues affecting your practice.
In addition to the content on this blog, you can still find regular updates and information on our Congressional Affairs and Regulatory Affairs pages by visiting AOTA’s website including our Legislative Action Center.
Working with Congressman Mike Thompson's (D-CA) office, AOTA was able to get occupational therapy added to legislation that makes OT services provided via telehealth eligible for reimbursement under Medicare. Currently OT services provided via telehealth are not reimbursable. This marks a significant opportunity for the profession and for beneficiaries in rural and underserved areas in need of therapy services.
See Congressman Thompson's press release on the bill here:
I'm excited to see the expansion for coverage of Telehealth under Medicare! The state of Arizona already covers Telehealth and occupational therapy provided via this method, but I haven't found other practitioners in this state taking advantage of this. I see the advantage for incorporation of Telehealth in remote and rural counties that have limited occupational therapy personnel, but need to convince employers to branch out into this technology.
MaryFran, I live in California and have tried very hard to find my niche in telehealth- with Tammy Richmond trying to help me in this regard. However, one hurdle I face is a two fold one. One is community organizations where my potential clients are coming from still prefer face to face treatments or they are ignorant about what it is. Two is our clients and their families don't know too much about telehealth. Then for me personally, there is another issue- parents of autistic adolescents as well as autistic adults still don't know too much about the possibility of OT can actually help them- particularly in health and wellness/mental health.
What I am saying is- this legislation is only a start. However, we as the OT community has a lot to do in educating our clients.
Bill, I am actually going to talk with Tammy tomorrow and get her take on my situation. I know that legislation is only a part of the big picture. In my area, financial & educational levels are limited so I am also running into a lack of funding for equipment as potential patients aren't using computers, nor have access to them within their homes. Therefore, whether insurance would cover the treatment, the patients aren't using community resources to access technology. I am planning to communicate more with a local county agency on aging. In their goals through 2017, they identified education in use of technology. Our hospital is also trying to educate patients prior to discharge from an acute stay about a patient portal feature for them to access online for their healthcare information. Again, accessing it from the hospital environment doesn't necessarily translate into utilization in the home environment. AARP with students in an OT program in South Dakota did a pilot project for improving the social aspect of the elderly in community settings such as assisted living in which they implemented a 3 phase process for use of an iPad from turning on the unit, all the way through to blogging.
How are you addressing your situations? Feel free to email me through my home email of firstname.lastname@example.org
Any suggestions about how to indicate our support for such legislation? Should we be following up with members on the house committee that this bill was sent to or asking our state representatives about their stance? Will AOTA create a template for this so we can use to contact our legislators?
Stay tuned - we will include this bill as part of our "Virtual Hill Day" write in campaign. There will be a letter template on the Legislative Action Center in the next few weeks. I will be sure to post a link to that here, as soon as it is available!