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Benjamin C.
Democrat MD

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  • Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

    by Senator Benjamin L. Cardin

    Posted on 2015-12-08

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    CARDIN (for himself and Mr. Heller): S. 2364. A bill to permit occupational therapists to conduct the initial assessment visit under a Medicare home [[Page S8496]] health plan of care for certain rehabilitation cases; to the Committee on Finance.



    Mr. CARDIN. Mr. President, I rise in support of the Medicare Home Health Flexibility Act of 2015, which I am introducing today with my colleague Senator Heller. This bipartisan, no-cost legislation 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, ensuring that Medicare beneficiaries receive timely access to essential home health therapy services.

    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.

    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, especially in areas where access to physical therapists and speech language pathologists may be limited. It is important to note that this legislation would apply only to rehabilitation therapy cases in which skilled nursing care is not required. 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. Also, although the Medicare Home Health Flexibility Act would allow occupational therapists to conduct initial home health assessments, it would not alter the existing criteria for establishing eligibility for the Medicare home health benefit.

    I urge my colleagues to join me and Senator Heller in supporting the Medicare Home Health Flexibility Act, which will help ensure timely access to essential home health therapy services for Medicare beneficiaries.

    Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the Record.

    There being no objection, the text of the bill was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows: S. 2364 Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

    This Act may be cited as the ``Medicare Home Health Flexibility Act of 2015''.

    SEC. 2. PERMITTING OCCUPATIONAL THERAPISTS TO CONDUCT THE INITIAL ASSESSMENT VISIT UNDER A MEDICARE HOME HEALTH PLAN OF CARE FOR CERTAIN REHABILITATION CASES.

    (a) In General.--Notwithstanding section 484.55(a)(2) of title 42, Code of Federal Regulations, or any other provision of law, an occupational therapist may conduct the initial assessment visit for an individual who is eligible for home health services under title XVIII of the Social Security Act if the referral order by the physician-- (1) does not include skilled nursing care; (2) includes occupation therapy; and (3) includes physical therapy or speech language pathology.

    (b) Rule of Construction.--Nothing in subsection (a) shall be construed to provide for initial eligibility for coverage of home health services under title XVIII of the Social Security Act solely on the basis of a need for occupational therapy.

    ______ By Mr. HATCH: S. 2368. An original bill to amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to improve the efficiency of the Medicare appeals process, and for other purposes; from the Committee on Finance; placed on the calendar.

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