Good news out of Congress for Medicare recipients who need medical therapy: the 2018 budget signed by President Trump in February lifts arbitrary annual payment caps for those services so badly needed by millions of older Americans.
For two decades, payments for these treatments have been capped, with Congress periodically passing bills that provided automatic exceptions for the reimbursement limits when the treatments were deemed medically necessary.
However, Congress did not act in 2017 and, as of January, Medicare beneficiaries who reached the caps — $2,010 for physical and speech language therapy combined, and $2,010 for occupational therapy — were in danger of losing the coverage they need. The new budget bill eliminates that uncertainty.
I'm currently in physical therapy following surgery during which bone spurs were removed from my right shoulder, a condition that caused chronic pain whenever I exerted pressure on my shoulder, such as throwing a softball -- an extremely important activity. So, obviously, I'm happy that Congress took this action.
But my situation is minor compared to other Medicare patients who have suffered strokes or serious injury. For them, medical therapy can mean the difference between being able to walk or even speak again.
According to AARP, an analysis commissioned by the American Occupational Therapy Association found that nearly 6 million Medicare beneficiaries used outpatient therapy services in 2015. Rehabilitative care often allows older Americans to maintain their independence and remain at home rather than go to a nursing home or other long-term care facility.
I've been extremely fortunate. The therapists at Tidelands Health Nextstep Rehabilitation Services in Conway, SC have been incredible. My shoulder is improving daily and I credit their expertise and patience with me, an extremely impatient patient, for making that happen.
So, I'm grateful to them for putting up with me and I'm thankful that Congress eliminated those coverage limitations so seniors no longer need to worry about having coverage for their care.