Occupational therapy is now included in new federal regulation as a mental health service that must be available in participating community mental health centers providing Medicare partial hospitalization services. According to Heather Parsons, AOTA’s director of legislative advocacy, “It’s the first time in decades that the federal government has defined what quality community mental health should look like, and occupational therapy is included.”
The US Congress did pass the mental health parity bill. AOTA has an author on a bill at the federal level to make occupational therapy a lead in opening cases in the home health context.
OTAC was able to get Blue Cross to reverse reimbursement reductions last spring (2008) after they initially proposed 50% or more reductions in reimbursement for OT services. After OTAC met with the Blue Cross executives, they permanently reversed the reimbursement reductions. These successes support the notion that advocacy works.
OTAC is presently working with the group Autism Speaks to get a bill authored that will cover OT services to children with autism and Governor Schwarzenegger has called a special session for after the elections to solve the continued budget crisis. The Legislature is required to respond to this call and plans to convene either Friday, November 7 or Monday, November 10. The Governor estimates that the budget deficit is between $5 and $8 billion, while legislative leaders are estimating it could be as high as $10 billion.
—Jane Dressler, J.D., OTR/L