REPOSTED from apta.org
In a development that leaves patients and providers in the lurch, Congress has recessed without addressing the Medicare therapy cap in any meaningful way. The inaction is particularly disappointing for APTA and other stakeholders given that a bipartisan agreement had been reached to permanently end the hard cap.
The bottom line: beginning on January 1, 2018, the $2,010 hard cap on physical therapy and speech-language pathology services combined will be instituted, and the exceptions process that currently permits medically necessary services above the cap through use of the KX modifier will no longer apply.
In late October, Congress seemed poised to enact a permanent repeal of the hard cap and included that change in a package of Medicare “extenders.” Had those extenders been approved, it would have ended Congress’ continual tradition of late-year scrambling to come up with a short-term exceptions process. Instead, Congress recessed without approving the extenders or enacting a temporary exceptions process.
Over the past several months, thousands of APTA members called and tweeted their members of Congress, and generated over 20,790 emails to Capitol Hill urging Congress to pass the permanent fix for the therapy cap
“Congress’ inaction creates the worst-case scenario for patients and providers,” said APTA President Sharon Dunn, PT, PhD. “Medicare patients will start the new year unsure if they will receive medically necessary care. This inaction by Congress means arbitrary barriers, stress for patients and their families, and disruptions for providers.”
The therapy cap is just 1 of several issues left unresolved by Congress. A number of other critical Medicare extender policies that needed action, but also will now expire on December 31, include everything from special payments for ground ambulances, to reauthorization of special needs plans, to an extension of the State Health Insurance Health Programs.
There is a chance the cap could be short-lived. Congress returns from its recess on January 19, and APTA’s congressional advocates and other patient and provider groups that are part of the Repeal the Therapy Cap Coalition will work to get the bipartisan agreement included in the next “must-do” bill to be taken up.
“Congress is well aware of the negative ramifications of the therapy cap, which is why there is bipartisan support to repeal it,” said Justin Elliott, APTA’s vice president of government affairs. “It is imperative that Congress take action as soon as possible in January, and we will keep up the fight.”
APTA also will provide additional information and resources to help practitioners prepare for the application of the hard cap on January 1.