Therapists Gain More Freedom in New Waiver
Occupational therapists achieve long sought-after goal.
Medicare officials have knocked down another wall that blocked optimal efficiency during COVID-19 public health emergency.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is waiving the requirements that rehabilitation skilled professionals may only perform the initial and comprehensive assessment when only therapy services are ordered, according to a May 11 1135 waiver update.
What Does the Waiver Mean?
This temporary blanket modification allows any rehabilitation professional, including occupational therapists (OTs), physical therapists (PT), and speech-language pathologists (SLP), to perform the initial and comprehensive assessment for all patients receiving therapy services as part of the plan of care, to the extent permitted under state law, regardless of whether or not the service establishes eligibility for the patient to be receiving home care.
“Expanding [that] category of therapists … provides HHAs with additional flexibility that may decrease patient wait times for the initiation of home health services,” CMS says.
CMS does include a few caveats, however. Therapists still may not perform assessments in nursing-only cases, the waiver says.
And CMS expects home health agencies (HHAs) to match the appropriate discipline that performs the assessment to the needs of the patient “to the greatest extent possible.” Therapists also must act within their state scope of practice laws and access a registered nurse or other professional to complete sections of the assessment that are beyond their scope of practice.
Another Win for Occupational Therapists
Last month, CMS issued a waiver allowing OTs to perform the initial and comprehensive assessment for all patients receiving therapy services as part of the plan of care, to the extent permitted under state law, regardless of whether occupational therapy is the service that establishes eligibility.
CMS recently implemented CARES Act regulations for another permanent home health (HH) change — nonphysician practitioners ordering home health services and certifying eligibility for HH.