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
Unfortunately a lot of news coverage on the Affordable Care Act's implementation has left something to be desired. The issues are complex and hard to keep track of, and even when a reporter has the best of intentions, he or she can make mistakes. Kaiser Health News has bucked the trend and published a clear and accurate article about the fairly complex issue of habilitation as an essential health benefit. The implementation of this requirement has been fairly convoluted and varies from state to state, but KHN breaks it down about as clearly and succinctly as is possible. This is an important issue for occupational therapy practitioners and consumers (more on that here and here). Look for more on habilitative services in upcoming issues of OT Practice and AJOT.