As the debate about the fate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and its replacement—if any—begins to take center stage in Washington, APTA and 2 other therapy organizations have joined together to urge the Secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to focus on access to "affordable, high-quality, and patient-centered health insurance coverage" that includes strong habilitation and rehabilitation components.
In a letter to Secretary Tom Price dated March 7, APTA, the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) make the case for the importance of patient access to habilitation and rehabilitation as crucial components of "high-quality affordable health care that meets their needs." The letter describes how the value of habilitation and rehabilitation services was "widely acknowledged" when these services were included as essential health benefits under the ACA, and advocates for similar inclusion in any future health insurance plan.
"To preserve current access, we strongly advise the inclusion of coverage of occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech-language pathology for the purposes of both habilitation and rehabilitation services and devices in any action to reform the individual and small-group markets," the letter states. The associations describe their professions collectively as representing "the overwhelming majority of therapy providers."
"The Republican health care plan has just been introduced, so we are very early in what will likely be a very long and contentious process," said Justin Elliott, APTA's vice president of government affairs. "However, we think it's important to engage in and advocate for what we believe should be considered as part of any ACA reform effort. Obviously, continued, affordable access to habilitation and rehabilitation services is in the best interests of our patients."
Elliott said that APTA, AOTA, and ASHA will continue to work together on areas of mutual interest as the debate moves forward.