Senate Healthcare Bill Threatens Medicaid

The following is a statement from the American Occupational Therapy Association. While ALOTA works to support access to essential healthcare and occupational therapy services, it is your voice that is needed to protect healthcare services in the State of Alabama. 

Contact Senators Shelby and Strange today!

Heather Parsons

On Thursday June 22, the United States Senate released a discussion draft of their health care reform bill, called the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 (BCRA). While much of the healthcare reform discussion has been about fixing or repealing the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare), the major provisions of the bill released yesterday relate to Medicaid. After careful analysis, AOTA is deeply concerned that BCRA would undermine the Medicaid program and put the millions of children and adults with serious disabilities, students receiving special education support services, people receiving home and community based services, individuals with mental health needs, those in nursing homes, and many others at grave risk of reduced or lost benefits.

BCRA would change Medicaid from a system where the federal government “matches” payments for all medically necessary services a state chooses to provide to beneficiaries, to one that provides states with a capped amount of money to spend for all beneficiaries. This will require hard choices by the states and inevitable cuts to Medicaid programs and services. Over time, the Federal government will pay less and less for Medicaid services and State Medicaid programs will have to make up the difference, or diminish services. As states are faced with difficult financial decisions they will have to reduce benefits such as rehabilitation benefits for adults and home and community based services, reduce reimbursement to providers, or find ways decrease or slow Medicaid enrollment. States may eventually be pressured to reduce services to children from the current broad mandate of Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment services (EPSDT) which protects all children on Medicaid.

From early intervention and schools, to skilled nursing facilities, to community mental health programs these proposed changes will negatively affect occupational therapy practitioners and the people who are in need of our services. We urge you to call your Senate offices today (yes, even on the weekend!) and ask that they reject these dramatic changes to Medicaid.

AOTA’s legislative action center will walk you through the steps. You can call or write, but you need to take action before next week’s vote.

Please check back next week for AOTA’s analysis of the Senate bill.  Until then we recommend this detailed analysis by the experts at the non-partisan Health Affairs Blog.

Public Comment Open: Medicare Changes to SNF Therapy Payments

 From AOTA  The American Occupational Therapy Association

Medicare Proposing Changes to SNF Therapy Payments in Future: What Can You Do to Promote OT?

Occupational therapy practitioners are urged to understand and respond to a public comment notice on the payment program for skilled nursing facilities (SNFs). The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (advance notice) to modify the SNF Part A Prospective Payment System (PPS) payment methodology. The comment period is open until June 26. Note that CMS is asking for feedback before writing an actual proposed rule that would be put forward next year and possibly go into effect in federal fiscal year 2019.

The key issue for occupational therapy is how patient classification for payment will relate to actual therapy need and provision. The SNF PPS has been under scrutiny for many years. A key concern is that the current PPS tilts payments toward providing therapy—and possibly providing unnecessary therapy.

AOTA is urging members to comment on the advance notice. Changes to the SNF PPS could greatly affect occupational therapy practitioners and their clients. AOTA Regulatory Affairs staff will be submitting comments to CMS voicing key concerns about the advance notice related to patient access to occupational therapy services. Below, AOTA provides a template letter with suggestions for comment areas and directions for members to submit comments directly to CMS.


The SNF payment system has been under scrutiny by Congress, the CMS, and others, including the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC), which reports to Congress, for many years. Changes have been made periodically since the PPS came into use in 1999, but recent efforts to control Medicare spending have pushed reform of payment for SNFs and other post–acute care settings to the forefront. A few years ago, CMS contracted with Acumen, LLC to develop alternative payment models for the existing SNF PPS. Dr. Natalie Leland, PhD, OTR/L, BCG, FAOTA, and Associate Professor of Occupational Therapy at the University of Southern California, represented AOTA on the Technical Expert Panels (TEPs) held by Acumen in 2015 and 2016. In the May 4, 2017, publication of the advance notice, CMS solicits comments on a new Resident Classification System, Version I (RCS-I) that would replace the current Resource Utilization Groups, Version 4 (RUG-IV) for SNF PPS.

Details of Acumen’s work, TEP summaries, technical reports, and recommendations can be found on the CMS SNF PPS project page.

What is RCS-I?

As practitioners are aware, the current RUGs categories emphasize the counting of therapy minutes to determine the payment amount. The proposed RCS-I would change the system to emphasize patient characteristics, not services received. RCS-1 removes therapy minutes as a determinant of payment and creates a payment model based on resident clinical characteristics. In other words, the current system allows providers to receive payment for the therapy they decide to provide. A system based on clinical characteristics would determine the payment not on the amount of services provided, but rather define how many services a resident would receive based on identification of patient characteristics. Payment would flow from how the patient presents rather than from how much service is provided.

RCS-I would consist of 5 components, each with its own payment determinants, including a basic payment, or non-case-mix component, which covers SNF resources that do not vary according to resident characteristics, and 4 case-mix adjusted payment components. The payment would be determined by how a patient’s characteristics match up to groups of patients with similar characteristics; an estimate will be made in the system of how much should be paid for patients who have similar characteristics. The four components as proposed are:

  • Physical therapy/occupational therapy (PT/OT)
  • Speech-language pathology (SLP)
  • Nursing (covers nursing services and social services)
  • Non-therapy ancillary services

Section III.B.b. Physical and Occupational Therapy Case-Mix Classification beginning on page 20989 of the advance notice sets forth how occupational therapy services would be allotted for under RCS-I. The combining of PT and OT is of concern to AOTA. However, current MDS data collection shows little difference between the PT patient characteristics and OT patient characteristics. Researchers have focused on this lack of difference to support combining OT and PT need for payment purposes.

As noted above, the PT/OT component is only one determining factor, but it is significant.

To determine how the client’s characteristics relate to payment, residents would be categorized for PT/OT payment based on three resident characteristics within the MDS admission assessment:

  1. Clinical reason for resident’s SNF stay—uses item I8000 on the MDS 3.0;
  2. Resident’s functional status—based on self-performance of transfers, eating, and toileting; and
  3. Cognitive status—capitalizes on the Cognitive Function Scale (CFS), which is based on responses from the Brief Interview for Mental Status (BIMS) and Cognitive Performance Scale (CPS).

The clinical reason for the SNF stay in relation to OT and PT needs is used to categorize the patient into 1 of 5 clinical categories that Acumen identified as being generally predictive of PT/OT costs in SNFs:

  • Major Joint Replacement or Spinal Surgery
  • Other Orthopedic: orthopedic surgery (except major joint) and non-surgical orthopedic/musculoskeletal
  • Non-Orthopedic Surgery
  • Acute Neurologic
  • Medical Management: acute infections, cancer, pulmonary, cardiovascular and coagulations, medical management

AOTA is concerned that these categories are much too broad to be able to determine appropriate therapy needs. Co-morbidities are not fully included as factors influencing OT/PT need. AOTA is working to identify patients who might fall through the cracks and not get access to occupational therapy services. AOTA is also concerned about the timing and role of the occupational therapy evaluation in determining patient therapy needs.

The next step to identifying payment levels is determining patients’ functional and cognitive status characteristics. This information gathered as part of the data set on each patient would be used to finalize how much the SNF will be paid for the OT/PT services component. While the OT/PT status is only one component of the full payment level determined, this approach could dramatically affect the amount of therapy services provided to residents. Additionally, CMS would remove the existing 14-, 30-, 60-, and 90-day PPS assessments and only require the initial and discharge assessments, with significant change assessments if applicable. Further, CMS has failed to clearly define when a significant change assessment is warranted and its impact on therapy classification for payment purposes. This could be a noteworthy change in the number of assessments used to determine payment and may not capture changes in patient status.

Other concerns relate to how the proposed RCS-I will affect provision of and access to occupational therapy. AOTA is concerned with the limitations of the PT/OT clinical categories named above; the correct assessment of ADL components in determining the functional level; and failure to ensure that mild cognitive impairment is appropriately included in the cognitive determination. The effect of all of these limitations in the proposed system may seriously restrict which patients receive therapy and whether they receive the appropriate amount of therapy. Improving the PPS system could have beneficial effects on patients and on practitioners (e.g., fewer productivity pressures) but AOTA does not believe this proposed system has enough safeguards in place for implementation. In particular, RCS-I does not include protections that ensure the OT/PT allotment is used solely to provide therapy services, nor does it ensure that patients receive medically necessary services of the proper type. Rationing may occur, and domination of one discipline in a facility may affect how the OT/PT allotment is apportioned. AOTA is concerned that patient needs will not drive the system after a payment amount or category has been determined.

Call to Action—What Can You Do?

Comments are due online by 11:59 pm eastern standard time on June 26, 2017. You can submit comments to CMS, too! There is power in numbers and you can voice your concerns directly to CMS if you believe these changes negatively impact your patients and your ability to provide medically necessary services in a SNF setting. AOTA has developed a template letter to assist practitioners in submitting comments online to CMS by June 26. We encourage you to customize the letter with your own concerns. Specific examples of the types of patients who fall outside of the 5 clinical categories that may fall through the cracks in RCS-I would be particularly powerful. We encourage you to draft your letter in Word prior to going to the submission website.

Once your comment letter is ready for submission, you may submit electronic comments on this regulation to

  • Within the search bar, enter the Regulation Identifier Number associated with this regulation, 0938–AT17
  • Then click on the ‘‘Comment Now’’ box
  • Enter your comments into the comment box by copying and pasting from the document you have drafted in Word or personalized from the AOTA template.

View a web version

Exhibitor Registration


Exhibitor Registration

2017 ALOTA Fall Conference
September 22 – 24
Orange Beach, AL


Platinum $1000 

  • Includes conference signage as reception sponsor
  • Sponsor logo on t-shirt
  • Sponsor logo in conference packets
  • One job listing in packet
  • Website/social media marketing as conference sponsor
  • Table and 2 attendees eligible to receive CEUs

Gold $850

  • Sponsor logo on t-shirt
  • Sponsor logo in conference packets
  • One job listing in packet
  • Website/social medial marketing as conference sponsor
  • Table and 2 attendees eligible to receive CEUs

Silver $700

  • Sponsor logo in conference packets
  • One job listing in packet
  • Website/social media marketing as conference sponsor
  • Table and 2 attendees eligible to receive CEUs

Bronze $600

  • Website/social media marketing as conference sponsor
  • Table and 1 attendee eligible to receive CEUs


Sponsor/Exhibitor Registration
Company Name:
Person(s) attending for CEUs

If you or your organization needs to submit registration by check, please complete the following form and submit with your payment.

Exhibitor Registration Form

Continuing Education Opportunity

Motivations, Inc. has medical rehabilitation training courses taught by the nation’s leading experts. Our CEU approvals meet State Board Requirements. We are offering an upcoming course for Occupational Therapists.


Course #306 Pediatric Feeding and Swallowing Disorders: A Medical, Motor, Behavioral Approach


Course Summary

Research indicates that the prevalence of pediatric feeding and swallowing disorders is 80% in the special needs population and 20% in typically developing children. Therefore, most pediatric clinicians will encounter this disorder in some for or another. Feeding disorders come in all shapes and sizes, such as coughing/choking during meals, poor oral-motor skill acquisition, food refusal, oral aversion, G-Tube dependence and more. One must be versed in oral-motor and swallowing techniques, respiration, GI issues, nutrition, motor/postural alignment, and behavior strategies.

This is a two-day course focusing on how to approach pediatric feeding and swallowing disorders, how to diagnose and prioritize treatment options, and ensure successful outcomes for you and your patients. Day one will concentrate on medical and nutritional intervention strategies, while day two will focus on evaluation and therapeutic intervention. If children are available, there will be 1-2 live evaluations.


Location and Date:  Tuscaloosa, AL  –  University of Alabama   September 23 – 24, 2017

Registration Contact:  Scott

Registration Link:

Company Website:



AOTA Award Winners

American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA)
2017 Awards & Recognitions Winners


Congratulations to the recipients of the 2017 AOTA Awards & Recognitions winners. Alabama was well-represented, with many of the recipients being from our state! The awards ceremony was held at the 2017 AOTA Annual Conference & Centennial Celebration on Saturday April 1st in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


AOTA Roster of Fellows

Dr. Gwendolyn Gray, MA, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA
Pioneering Pediatric Practices in Rural School Systems

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Dr. Angela Thomas-Davis, EdD, MPA, OTR/L, FAOTA
Academic Leadership, Professional Advocacy and Collaboration

angela_1        angela_2


AOTA Roster of Honor

Tara Franks Bailey, BS, COTA
Passionate Role Model Inspiring Action & Commitment



Emerging & Innovative Practice Award

Dr. Jan Rowe, DrOT, OTR/L, FAOTA
Advancement of Innovative Treatment by Occupational Therapists

jan_1        jan_2


2017 AOTA Service Commendations

Valley Osborne McCurry, MBA, OTR/L

ASAP Representative, Representative Assembly, 2014 – 2017
Vice-Chairperson, Affiliated State Association Presidents (ASAP), 2014 – 2017


Post-Conference Update

ALOTA would like to thank everyone for a very successful 2017 Spring Conference & Centennial Celebration!

What a great way to kickoff the 100 year celebration for occupational therapy. As we move toward Philadelphia at the end of March, let’s take a look back at some of the great things that happened at the 2017 ALOTA Spring Conference:

Scholarship Winners


(Pictured Tara Thompson, Rachel Gahan)

The recipients of the spring 2017 Student Scholarships are Rachel Gahan of UAB and Hannah Willis of Wallace State!!

ALOTA scholarships are selected, based upon achievements in professional activities, community service, and association involvement, and are awarded bi-annually at ALOTA conferences.

Congratulations to these well-deserving students!!


Students from Alabama and beyond gathered to hear presentations from speakers who have greatly impacted the field of occupational therapy. Here’s to future leaders and future OTs!

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What a powerful lineup of speakers who represent our state! A special thank you to our Keynote Address speaker, Amy Lamb OTD, OT/L, FAOTA and President of AOTA!

(Additional materials will be posted, as they become available)

Susan Denham, EdD, OTR/L, CHT  

Joint Replacement of the Upper Limb: Past to Present


1. Understand the history of joint replacements
2. Define OT’s role in joint replacement prevention and rehabilitation
3. Detail the risks and rewards of a joint replacement
4. Review protocols associated with: shoulder, elbow, wrist and digit joint replacements

Marjorie Scaffa, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA

The Role of Hope in the Therapeutic Process
  1. Appreciate the importance of hope in the recovery process
  2. Describe an evidence-based model of hope
  3. Implement strategies to infuse hope in the occupational therapy process


Mary Warren, PhD, OTR/L, SLVT, FAOTA

Occupational Therapy Role in Low Vision Rehabilitation: Past, Present and Future


  1. Compare and contrast the role of the OT specialist vs. the OT generalist in low vision rehabilitation in terms of focus, assessment, and intervention.
  2. Provide examples of appropriate interventions provided by the OT generalist.
  3. Describe how to transition from a generalist to a specialist in low vision rehabilitation.


Occupational Therapy Role in Low Vision, Mary Warren


Lesly James, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA

The Role of Occupational Therapy Practitioners in Measuring Early Childhood Outcomes


  1. Define the three functional child outcomes that all early intervention and early childhood programs must measure and report nationally.
  2. Identify national tools and resources that support participation in the early childhood outcomes summary process.
  3. Identify at least 3 strategies to support the occupational therapy practitioner participating in the IFSP and/or IEP team rating process for outcome measures.


Dr. James’ Presentation



Evidence-based and Meeting Society’s Occupational Needs: A Vision Which Includes Comprehensive Behavioral Intervention for Tics (CBIT)


  1. Participants will be able to discuss the evidence based behavioral program for children with tic disorders
  2. Participants will understand how tic disorders and Tourette syndrome can impede occupational performance(s)
  3. Participants will identify steps to identify tic urges, tic expression and the competing response to interrupt tics
  4. Participants will understand and discuss the impact of anxiety and environment on tic expression


CBIT, Jan Rowe


Amy Lamb, OTD, OT/L, FAOTA

Influencing the Future of Occupational Therapy



Influencing the Future of Occupational Therapy, Amy Lamb

Occupational Therapy Lowers Hospital Readmissions

Home-Based Program Reduces Disability


A special thank you to all of the supporters of the ALOTA Centennial Celebration. We couldn’t do it without you!

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2017 ALOTA Board Members

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ALOTA Fellow Program

Want to get involved?  Not sure how to start?  ALOTA has an exciting new program for you!

The ALOTA Fellows Program is a one year commitment that consists of leadership training, insight on leadership positions on the ALOTA board, mentorship, and participation in current service opportunities that match each participant’s leadership goals.

Participants selected for the ALOTA fellowship program will serve for one year under the mentorship of a current practitioner.

All ALOTA members, including students in their last year of study, are eligible to apply.  The program consists of a leadership training course, followed by on-going mentorship in the mentee’s region so that face to face mentor/mentee meetings are possible.

Follow the links to apply!



For more information, contact either Megan Sortino at or Alyssa Reiter at

Be Somebody…Make a Difference!

Awards and Scholarships!

Submissions for OT Awards and Student Scholarships has ended.

Winners will be announced at the ALOTA Fall Conference in Orange Beach, AL.


Student Scholarships

We award a total of four $500.00 scholarships throughout the year, two at our fall conference and two at our spring conference. We would like to encourage all student members to apply by downloading the ALOTA Student Scholarship 2017 application and submitting it to our Recognition Chairperson, Tracy O’Connor at

Application deadline is September 6, 2017!!

Student Scholarship Application


Elsie Holmes McKibbin Award

Honors an occupational therapist who has made considerable contributions to the body of knowledge of the profession. The award receives agency sponsorship to assist in the research expenses of the award recipient. The Elsie Holmes McKibbin Lecture (EHML) will be presented by the previous year’s recipient at the ALOTA Fall Conference.

Nominees for the EHML must have a minimum of ten (10) years’ experience. The recipient must have shared their knowledge through written and oral presentations. Nominees must be members of ALOTA.

Ann Cosby Service Award

Recognizes an advocate, member or non-member, who has made contributions to the advancement of occupational therapy and/or health care over a period of time.

OTR Award of Excellence

Demonstrates excellence in professional skills through a range of experience and depth of knowledge in OT theory, practice and association involvement. The award recipient must have demonstrated excellence in professional skills through a range of experience and depth of knowledge in OT theory, practice and association involvement. All nominees must be members of the ALOTA and have a minimum of five years’ experience.

OTA Award of Excellence

Recognizes COTAs who have contributed to the education and professional development of the members of the Alabama Occupational Therapy Association, particularly fellow COTAs. The award recipient must have demonstrated excellence in professional skills through a range of experience and depth of knowledge in OT theory, practice and association involvement. All nominees must be members of ALOTA and have a minimum of five years’ experience.



Please nominate your peers for the awards that are presented annually at Fall Conference. This is a great way to recognize professionals in our state who are making a difference every day. Please submit the nomination form to our Recognition Chairperson, Tracy O’Connor at no later than September 6, 2017.

Application deadline September 6, 2017!

ALOTA Awards Application 2017


Representative Assembly (RA) Meeting in Chicago, IL April 6-7, 2016

An AOTA Update from YOUR Alabama Representative!

Dear Colleagues,

Representative Assembly (RA) Meeting in Chicago, IL – April 6-7, 2016

The RA Spring Meeting is rapidly approaching. Be sure to check out the AOTA Web site to read the reports and motions/action items.

Go to . . . About AOTA – Volunteer Leadership – Representative Assembly – RA Spring Meeting 2016

I encourage you to read the reports by your AOTA leaders to learn about the excellent work they are doing to support and advance our profession. Also, I want your feedback – let me know what you think about the motions and issues by contacting me (see below for my contact information).

AOTA members can provide feedback on the RA motions at this link:

THANK YOU for being a member of AOTA and for your continued support of our profession.

Hope to see you in Chicago!
Best regards,

Angela Thomas-Davis
Dr. Angela Thomas-Davis, MPA, OTR/L
Professor of Occupational Therapy
Department of Occupational Therapy
Alabama State University
P. O. Box 271
Montgomery, AL 36101-0271
334.229-5883 (office)
334.229-5882 (FAX)