Guest Blog: Leadership Development Series

Guest Blog: Making the Case for Membership

Why Membership Matters by Michael J Steinhauer, OTR, MPH, FAOTA

FOTA and AOTA members know how valuable their associations dollars are to represent their needs with legislators, regulators, accrediting bodies, and external threats to our profession. Both state and national associations address a wide array of topics that impacts on EVERY practice setting, EVERY demographic, EVERY insurance provisions, and EVERY diagnostic category that occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants see in their work every day. WOW! This article in part demonstrates the value of your association dollars and calls on every state and national association member to ACTIVELY recruit others in our profession to join.

Think for a moment: do you have auto insurance? Do you have health insurance? Do you insure your possessions in your homes with homeowners or renters insurance? If you own a home you pay for mortgage insurance, right? Do you have individual malpractice liability insurance? Do you have workman’s compensation insurance privately or through your employer? Do you pay for travel insurance sometimes? Do you have life insurance? Do you have flood insurance? Some people have death expenses insurance. Some people have pet health insurance. Right??

Well what insurance do you have on your profession? How do you help insure that your profession will remain a viable, respected, insurance covered, and a diverse profession posed for whatever health care will look like in the years to come? Who sets your professional standards and defines your scope of practice and helps lead the efforts to protect the name “occupational therapy” and the titles, “occupational therapist” and “occupational therapy assistant?”

What is the prime source of your accredited education, and then your continued education after graduation? Who provides the primary source of education around the ongoing evolution of your professional standards?  Folks, it’s the state and national association of occupational therapists! 

How could you have invested all the time and expense of earning a professional degree, sit for your licensing exam, and be continually required to demonstrate you are qualified to work without the leadership of the associations to protect your professional AND personal interests to create a legal basis for your contribution to health care?  And who will lead the effort to educate the general public about the value of our services in the very practice setting you work in?

Here’s a VERY short list of the issues your associations have addressed recently. The full scope of work by the associations is not quantifiable.

  • Medicaid benefits, coverage, and payment levels relating to providing extended speech, physical or occupational therapy
  • Ethical considerations in the practice of occupational therapy
  • Opioid guidelines and their implications for occupational therapy
  • Occupational Therapy Assistant reimbursement provisions proposed by Congress
  • Fall prevention standards
  • OTA supervision requirements
  • Continued competency requirements
  • State licensure requirements
  • Adding OT to the list of providers who could utilize telehealth to provide services.
  • Allowing for reimbursement of OT services for chronic pain management
  • Allowing for the licensure of internationally trained occupational therapists.  
  • Allowing for the coverage of more OT visits if deemed necessary under private insurance plans including those of the ACA
  • Allowing OTAs to provide care when receiving reimbursement through workers compensation
  • Setting co-pay limits for PT and OT services.
  • Removing unintended barriers for medical services, including occupational therapy, rendered in the school setting pursuant to an Individual Education Plan.
  • Establishing the qualifications for registration, continuing education requirements, standards of practice, and fees for registration as a qualified mental health professional.

FOTA and AOTA members help move these and many other issues along by volunteering their time and financial contributions to assure occupational therapy is at the table as a distinguished member of the habilitation and rehabilitation field. Some FOTA members and non-members (who have since joined), have participated in the FOTA Leadership Development Initiative, attending a CEU-supported conference once a year to learn about what it takes to be an effective leader in support of our association goals. Information about the course is available from Michael Steinhauer, OTR, MPH, FAOTA at 561-739-3242 (email [email protected]), or from Nadya Ramos, OTA at 813-504-7257 ([email protected]).

In my opinion, it is your duty as a qualified and competent health care provider to join your state and national associations right away and insure your professional future in taking its place in contributing in its unique way to the health and well being of the public. 

FOTA Guest Blogger:  Michael J Steinhauer, OTR, MPH, FAOTA is the FOTA Administration and Management SIS Chair, and Co-Chair of the FOTA Leadership Development Initiative. He attended the Tufts University - Boston School of Occupational Therapy and is an occupational therapist working in the home health setting.

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