Legislative Update - May, 2017

The Arizona Occupational Therapy Association (ARIZOTA) is pleased to report the enactment of its top legislative priority for 2017. This enactment amends the AHCCCS coverage statute, ARS 36-2907, to provide coverage for outpatient occupational therapy services regardless of the age of the patient, thus including adult coverage for the first time. Please note that this change will not be effective for at least 90 days, and more likely on October 1, 2017.

Click here for the legislative history of this bill.

The original bill was SB 1030, sponsored by Senator Nancy Barto, the Chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. Senator Barto, who sponsored similar legislation in prior years, worked diligently to ensure the bill moved through the Senate, passing the Health and Human Services Committee, and the Appropriations Committee, before clearing the Senate on a 26-3 vote.  All three of the no votes in the Senate did not oppose the provisions of the bill but preferred that they be included in the AHCCCS budget, since the bill had a transitional cost of between $150,000 and $350,000 to the state budget.

In the House, SB 1030 passed the Health Committee without opposition. It was then held in the Rules Committee until the budget negotiations were completed.  At that point the provisions of SB 1030 were included in the Health Reconciliation Bills, HB 2542 and SB 1527. These bills do not appropriate any money, but provide direction from the legislature to the agencies and make policy changes. The budget bills were passed on May 4, at which time SB 1527 was substituted for HB 2542 on the floor of the House, and sent to the Governor on May 8. The Legislature adjourned for the year on May 10.  On May 12, the Governor signed SB 1527.

Funds for the cost of adding outpatient occupational therapy services were appropriated to AHCCCS, in the amount of $130,000 (this recognizes that the change will not be in effect for the full 2017-2018 Fiscal Year).  While the General Appropriations bill takes effect at the start of the fiscal year, July 1, 2017, the Reconciliation Bills such as SB 1527 are usually effective on the general effective date, which would be August 8, 2017. However, the contract year for the AHCCCS Health Plans, which contract and pay for covered services, runs from October 1 through September 30.  So ARIZOTA anticipates that the change to outpatient services will most likely become effective October 1, 2017. ARIZOTA will be meeting with AHCCCS during May and June to get clarification, and also to discuss whether there will be any different approach with respect to outpatient behavioral health services. ARIZOTA will provide additional information before July 1, and will cover the new changes at its fall conference.