WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.) have joined together on a no-cost, bipartisan bill to ensure that Medicare beneficiaries receive timely access to essential home health therapy services. The Medicare Home Health Flexibility Act of 2015 (S. 2364) would allow occupational therapists to perform the initial home health assessment in cases in which occupational therapy is ordered by the physician, along with speech language pathology and/or physical therapy services, and skilled nursing care is not required.
“Delays in therapy can mean delays in recovery for seniors in need,” said Senator Cardin, a member of the Senate Finance Health Care Subcommittee. “By permitting occupational therapists to perform initial home health assessments in limited circumstances, the Medicare Home Health Flexibility Act can help prevent delays in Medicare beneficiaries receiving essential home health therapy services. This is especially important in areas where access to physical therapists and speech language pathologists may be limited.”
“In states like Nevada with many rural communities, Medicare beneficiaries depend on in-home occupational therapy. Unfortunately, there are barriers prohibiting them from receiving needed-treatment. The Medicare Home Health Flexibility Act is a simple fix that eliminates barriers, increases access, and reduces costs for those dependent on in-home health services,” said Senator Heller. “I am proud to work with Senator Cardin, and I look forward to working with him to move this important legislation through the Senate.”
Occupational therapy is frequently ordered as part of a physician’s plan of care for patients requiring home health services, and, under certain circumstances, an occupational therapist is allowed to perform the comprehensive assessment to determine a Medicare beneficiary’s continuing need for home health therapy services. However, under current Medicare law, occupational therapists are not permitted to conduct the initial assessment for home health cases, even when occupational therapy is included in the physician’s order and when the case is exclusively related to rehabilitation therapy. Under S. 2364, nurses would still be required to conduct the initial assessment for all home health cases in which skilled nursing care is ordered by the physician. The Medicare Home Health Flexibility Act would not alter the existing criteria for establishing eligibility for the Medicare home health benefit.