Dear Editor: As an occupational therapist, I've seen how my profession can help empower clients across the lifespan and get their lives back after illness and injury. Occupational therapy specifically helps my clients return to the activities that increase function and make them feel whole again, from bathing and dressing, to getting back to work. However, Congress' inability to fix a 20-year-old flawed policy means that some of our nation's most vulnerable are facing a tough choice: pay out of pocket to continue necessary therapy, or halt therapy services — and stop the recovery process.
On Jan. 1, a limitation on Medicare outpatient therapy services, also known as the "therapy cap," went into place after Congress failed to extend the "exceptions process" that previously kept the cap from taking effect for patients with a demonstrated need.
Currently, for 2018, the therapy cap places a financial limit of $2,010 on occupational therapy services and a financial limit of $2,010 on physical therapy and speech-language-pathology services combined. The therapy cap applies to most Medicare Part B providers of therapy services.
Congress has indicated that it is committed to fixing the problem of the therapy cap, but has not yet taken action. While a policy can be applied retroactively, therapy cannot. For many conditions, if you miss the window of recovery, that window may be closed forever. For degenerative conditions, lack of access to therapy can mean losing skills that will never be regained.
If the therapy cap remains in effect, patients will lose access to therapy services critical to their ability to be as independent and functional as possible. Fixing the therapy cap needs to happen now. Congress should move this bipartisan, bicameral legislation without delay.
Mary Nelson, OTR/L
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