According to the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), the Senate recently approved a bipartisan budget measure, approved prior by the House of Representatives, which holds “good and bad news for occupational therapy.”
The AOTA notes that the agreement is designed to avert a portion of the cuts from the sequester, the “automatic across the board budget cuts” that went into effect last year.
In a news release, the AOTA points out that the while budget deal restores the majority of the cuts made to federal education and research programs, it continues the current 2% reduction in Medicare provider payments through 2023. The release also notes that the budget bill also contains a provision intended to extend the Medicare therapy cap exceptions process through the end of March.
Beginning April 2013, the release reports that the sequester cut federal education and research funding by 5%. The budget agreement restores 87% of these funds cut for general education, special education, and federal research programs.
The AOTA goes on to state that the current 2% reduction in payments to Medicare providers, including all occupational therapy practitioners, will not only remain in place, but is extended for 2 more years through 2023. The organization adds that this one of several provisions included in the bill to achieve $23 billion in deficit reduction.
The budget agreement, approved by both the House and Senate, reportedly carried provisions to temporarily extend the Medicare therapy cap exceptions process and patch to the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) through the end of March. This, AOTA says, will prevent a hard cap on Medicare outpatient therapy services from going into effect on January 1 and avoids a 24% reduction in Medicare Payment rates for providers. The 3-month extension also provides lawmakers additional time for Congress to complete the long-term reform package.
The AOTA emphasizes that it has advocated for the restoration of funding to federal special education programs, as well as to ensure that the therapy cap exceptions process was included in the 3-month extension of the SGR patch.