(Rockville, MD) The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) applauded today U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) for urging his fellow legislators to address long existing caps on outpatient therapy under Medicare Part B as Congress prepares to move on from the recent U.S. federal government shutdown to determining the nation's budget.
"Therapy caps mean that those who have the most serious needs for therapy services—those suffering from stroke—those types of injuries—are not able to get the full services or are at least threatened to not get the full services," Cardin said in remarks he delivered today on the Senate floor.
Though the caps were established through legislation that Congress passed 20 years ago, over the years since, annual temporary fixes have kept them from being implemented. The caps "should never have been put into law" in the first place, Cardin noted.
"We thank Senator Cardin for speaking out, and we urge lawmakers to join with him in ending the caps as soon as possible," ASHA President Elise Davis-McFarland, PhD, CCC-SLP, said. "Until they do, the health of millions of Americans is vulnerable to the impact of limited treatment."
For 2018, the therapy cap is $2,010 for speech-language pathology and physical therapy services combined—not nearly enough to meet the needs.
Under the caps, Medicare beneficiaries who suffer from speech-language disorders due to life-altering events—such as stroke, head injury, Alzheimer's, or Parkinson's disease—risk being denied therapy and/or being forced to pay out of pocket for services to help them regain their ability to communicate effectively.
ASHA has long been a leading advocate for full repeal of the caps, which restrict access to vital outpatient rehabilitative services in settings such as skilled nursing facilities, rehabilitation hospitals, and clinics. Just last month, ASHA joined with 25 other leading health and consumer organizations in sending a letter to Congress that urged repealing the caps. Last October, a bicameral and bipartisan policy agreement was reached in Congress to move ahead with a permanent repeal of the caps.
"I ask all ASHA members to contact their members of Congress today to urge them to repeal the Medicare therapy caps," Davis-McFarland said. "That would be an important way of helping to ensure high-quality, medically necessary treatment for Medicare beneficiaries as well as remove uncertainty for beneficiaries and therapy providers alike."
About the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)
ASHA is the national professional, scientific, and credentialing association for 191,500 members and affiliates who are audiologists; speech-language pathologists; speech, language, and hearing scientists; audiology and speech-language pathology support personnel; and students. Audiologists specialize in preventing and assessing hearing and balance disorders as well as providing audiologic treatment, including hearing aids. Speech-language pathologists identify, assess, and treat speech and language problems, including swallowing disorders.