Legislative Corner

 

Posted May 12, 2021

End of Legislative Session Report (download this statement, as well as a copy of all bills tracked by TNOTAhere).

The first half of the 112th Tennessee General Assembly adjourned on May 5, 2021. This year Capitol & 5th tracked 33 bills on behalf of TNOTA, including 12 caption bills. Following several intermittent and incomplete sessions last year due to COVID-19, lawmakers were eager to get back to lawmaking and health care was notably a key focus this year. There were several bills filed that chipped away at existing telehealth provisions, including allowing post-graduate professionals to utilize telehealth when under supervision; allowing behavioral health services to be reimbursed via telehealth; and even allowing healthcare providers from other states to utilize telehealth under certain conditions.
 
Other monitored legislation included the bill which required mandatory coverage for chiropractic services by TennCare (see SB319/HB419). Last year, the House sponsor had carried this legislation and included occupational therapists along with other allied health professionals. This year, the legislation only included chiropractors. As originally drafted, the legislation would have prohibited TennCare from requiring a beneficiary to first use an alternative healthcare service before covering chiropractic services. This was obviously not ideal for occupational therapists who provide pain relief treatment to patients, along with many other providers. In working with TennCare and the sponsor, this language was removed from the final version that passed.

Another closely monitored piece of legislation was the school-based health related services (see SB503/HB753) which allow occupational therapists (and other allied health professionals), practicing in a school setting to refer and order services within their scope of practice as a part of a child's IEP. While the legislation gained broad support in the legislature, the high fiscal note posed a significant hurdle. Ultimately, the measure was not funded in the state’s FY21-22 budget and was subsequently put on hold. However, the bill remains very much alive and is poised to be revived in 2022.

Of course, TNOTA also brought its own legislation this session which successfully passed both chambers and became Public Chapter on April 17. The bill makes several changes to the practice of occupational therapy including allowing OT practitioners to provide a treatment diagnosis, prognosis, or plan; permanently utilize telehealth as a service delivery; and perform dry needling of the upper limb. For the purposes of promulgating the appropriate rules, the legislation will go into effect on July 1, 2021. 
TNOTA is so grateful for the hard work of our lobbyists at Capitol & 5th public strategies!

 

 

 Posted April 17, 2021

Great news! Thanks to the tremendous efforts of TNOTA leadership, members, and OT stakeholders across the state, TNOTA's sponsored bill (SB1072/HB1275) amending the OT practice act has passed!

This legislation updates OT practice settings to include telehealth-- this means that OT practitioners are now able to use telehealth as a service delivery model permanently. This legislation also acknowledges that OTs may provide a treatment diagnosis to patients.

This bill also recognizes that Dry Needling falls within our scope of practice as OTs, and it allows OTs to perform dry needling of the upper limb, defined as the hand, wrist, elbow, and shoulder girdle.

The next steps are for the Tennessee Board of Occupational Therapy to implement the law by promulgating rules and regulations to address these new statutory changes. TNOTA will work closely with the Board to provide input on these rules, including suggesting robust training requirements for the practice of dry needling.

TNOTA would like to extend our sincerest thanks to our bill sponsors, Senator Bo Watson and Representative Tom Leatherwood, as well as our amazing lobbyists at Capitol & 5th Public Strategies. They, along with many TNOTA members, worked very hard on our behalf to bring this bill to fruition.

 

Posted March 11, 2021

 

Thanks to the advocacy efforts of TNOTA and our capable legislative sponsors, SB1072/HB1275 by Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, and Rep. Tom Leatherwood, R-Arlington, passed out of both Health committees last week with unanimous support. The bill will now head to the respective calendaring committees before being heard of on the floor of both chambers. TNOTA does not anticipate opposition to this bill in the Senate or House.

This legislation updates OT practice settings to include telehealth. If passed, this bill would extend OT practitioners' ability to use telehealth as a service delivery model permanently. This legislation also acknowledges that OTs may provide a treatment diagnosis to patients, and it allows OTs to perform dry needling of the upper limb, defined as the hand, wrist, elbow, and shoulder girdle.

Once passed, the Board of Occupational Therapy will promulgate appropriate educational requirements to designate these new authorities.  

TNOTA would like to extend our sincerest thanks to our bill sponsors, Senator Bo Watson and Representative Tom Leatherwood, as well as our amazing lobbyists at Capitol & 5th Public Strategies.

TNOTA will keep its members apprised of any movement on the house and senate floors. 

Of note, TNOTA saw unprecedented grassroots advocacy effort surrounding this bill. Several senators and representatives relayed the fact that they heard from OT practitioners in support of this bill-- they heard our message loud and clear. Advocacy works!

On behalf of TNOTA, thank you for your advocacy to help ensure this crucial bill passes!

 Sincerely,

Dr. Cindy DeRuiter Blackwell, OTD, OTR/L

TNOTA President

 

 

Posted February 26, 2021 

Governor Lee has extended a number of previous Executive Orders (36, 38, 49, 50, 54, and 55) by issuing Executive Order 77. Many items in the Executive Order relate to healthcare. This order is set to expire April 28, 2021. This order extends the following provisions:

  • continues to allow out of state healthcare providers to practice in Tennessee;
  • continues to allow retired medical professionals to easily re-enter the workforce;
  • In-person and live continuing education requirements are suspended for healthcare professionals;
  • Healthcare licensing inspections and investigations are temporarily suspended;
  • Inspections of mental health and substance abuse facilities are suspended;
  • Designation of  certain skilled nursing facilities as COVID-19 Skilled Nursing Facilities;
  • Expanded telemedicine access for all licensed health care providers.

 Read more about it here

 

Posted November 4, 2020 

Read Capitol & 5th's summary of key election races in the state of Tennessee, as well as public policy priorities for several incoming lawmakers. Get familiar with your national, state, and local government to continue TNOTA's advocacy efforts into 2021 and beyond! 

 

Posted August 14, 2020 

Read the latest update from Capitol & 5th, recapping the special legislative session, including highlights on telehealth, business liability in the time of COVID, and more. 

 

Posted June 27, 2020 

Download TNOTA's final Bill Tracking Report for the 2020 Legislative session to see the legislation TNOTA has tracked in 2020. 

 

Posted June 20, 2020 

Read Capitol & 5th's update on the wrap up of Tennessee's 111th General Assembly, including highlights on the telemedicine bill, which was effectively killed in committee. TNOTA is continuing to work with C5 and our legislature on lobbying for telemedicine coverage and payment parity in Tennessee.