OT Licensure Preserved in Budget, but Work Now Needed to Save Medicaid Expansion

Earlier this week, the Ohio General Assembly approved House Bill 49, the State Operating Budget for Fiscal Years 2018 and 2019.  Govern Kasich is expected to line-item veto several provisions and then sign the measure this evening. One veto would strike a provision supported by many Republican lawmakers that would freeze Medicaid Expansion enrollment beginning on July 1st, 2018.  As you know, Ohio expanded Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act three years ago.  If this freeze were to go into effect, an estimated 500,000 Ohioans could lose Medicaid coverage. 

 But first, let’s share some good news.  After months of activity and debate, we are happy to report that HB 49 does not include any changes to the existing structure of the Ohio Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, and Athletic Trainers Licensure Board (OTPTAT) or the OT Section.  OOTA led the charge against efforts to consolidate the OTPTAT Board with the State Board of Orthotics, Prosthetics, and Pedorthics (OPP). 

 HB 49 does eliminate the existing OPP Board and place the oversight of the nearly 400 licensees of that board under the OTPTAT Board.  An OPP Advisory Committee will be formed to advise the OTPTAT Board on issues related to orthotists, prosthetists, and pedorthists.  No increases in licensure fees or costs will be needed to cover this new responsibility.  We greatly appreciate the time and energy that OOTA members and OT licensees committed to this fight!

 We can now breathe easy on the board consolidation front, but we need your help to save Medicaid Expansion in Ohio.  As noted above, Governor Kasich is expected to veto the Expansion freeze language in HB 49.  However, Republican leaders in the General Assembly are prepping a veto-override vote for next Thursday.  If legislators override Governor Kasich’s veto, then low income adults across Ohio will face renewed challenges in obtaining access to healthcare.

 We have two requests for you—the first is to please call and/or e-mail your state representative and state senator and urge them to protect Medicaid and oppose any efforts to override the Expansion freeze veto. You can find contact info for your state legislators here (https://www.legislature.ohio.gov/legislators/find-my-legislators). Further, here are some suggested talking points—

 o   Medicaid Expansion in Ohio has helped hundreds of thousands of low income Ohioans access healthcare and receive treatment for physical health issues, mental illness, and drug addiction;

 o   As a licensed healthcare provider in Ohio, I support Medicaid Expansion and I am urging you to do the same.  Without Expansion, many patients in Ohio would suffer;

 o   Please do not support any efforts to override Governor Kasich’s veto of the Medicaid Expansion enrollment freeze language in HB 49.  Medicaid Expansion should be allowed to continue;

 o   More than 500,000 Ohioans could lose coverage in Medicaid Expansion is frozen in Ohio.  This will lead to higher costs and worse outcomes.  Please support expansion and let the veto stand. Thank you!

Finally, the Medicaid Expansion Coalition, which includes OOTA, is holding a rally next Wednesday (July 5th) at the Ohio Statehouse.  The rally will take place from 12:00pm to 1:00pm on the West Lawn of the Statehouse.  Healthcare providers, patients, and advocates who support Medicaid are being encouraged to attend.  If you are able, please consider attending this important rally so we can show state lawmakers that Ohio’s healthcare providers support Medicaid Expansion.  Thank you!