AMTA's Approach to the Affordable Care Act, MASSAGE MagazineEvanston, IL. The American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) understands there has been much discussion and debate about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the potential role for massage therapists that it might provide within health insurance based, third-party reimbursement. Similar debates are taking place among other health care professionals as the ACA presents many challenges for everyone involved in health care, from professionals to consumers. While the law was enacted more than 3 years ago, it continues to be debated, analyzed and scrutinized. Meanwhile, the law has evolved and implementation will continue to evolve, especially as states determine their approaches to it.

AMTA has been actively engaged with federal agencies and U.S. congressional offices, since the ACA was introduced, about its impact on massage therapists and those they serve. And, AMTA is continuing all of its relationships with health care organizations and regulators, because health insurance reimbursement is still only one part of the integration of massage therapy into health care.

AMTA is approaching the ACA in a very practical and systematic way, which will promote and protect the best interests of massage therapists and avoids jumping in too quickly and making assumptions that might prove counter-productive.

“Many of us have hopes and interpretations of the law that may not be realistic as it begins to take shape,” says AMTA President Winona Bontrager. “One aspect of our approach is to move forward with a plan for vetted research to make the case for massage as an integrated part of health care. This will provide a foundation for all we do at the national level and what we will pursue in each state. It’s one thing to compile research we feel is supportive and another to ensure that what we bring forward is valid and relevant to the process of achieving acceptance within the framework of the ACA.”

Implementation of the ACA will look very different from state to state and AMTA has already been in contact with its chapters about developing guidelines and resources to address the ACA in every state. The association will focus on several fundamental principles that are intended to promote the interests of its members and their clients, as well as the entire massage therapy profession. Specifically, AMTA believes that any guidelines for implementation of the ACA:

· Must accommodate the evolution of the Affordable Care Act, implementation variations, statutory changes and unforeseen variables;

· Must be sustainable and cannot be centered around the exploitation of loopholes or singular clauses; and,

· Must be suitable for all massage therapists, not just those wishing to participate in third party reimbursement

AMTA also believes implementation of the ACA must:

· Place no limitations on massage therapists’ right to practice;

· Place no obstacles to direct patient/client access to massage therapy services; and,

· Place no restrictions on the rights of healthcare practitioners to refer to massage therapists.

The association believes a plan focused on these principles will be the most effective approach to the evolving third-party reimbursement system. “We will provide our chapters with resources to advocate specifically for the inclusion of massage therapists, not only in Accountable Care Organizations and Patient-Centered Medical Homes, which are important elements of the ACA, but also in traditional and exchange-based health insurance plans,” says Bontrager.

Anyone following the evolution of the ACA, is likely aware that dates for implementation, as well as interpretations of its meanings and legal decisions, are still very much in a state of flux. Therefore, AMTA is continuing to directly engage both the congressional offices of those who developed the legislation and the government agencies that will be implementing the new law.

A special session on Saturday of AMTA’s national convention in Ft. Worth, Texas, will be devoted to what the association knows of the ACA and what legal experts see as the reality of the law. All in the profession are welcome to attend AMTA’s convention and take advantage of this important presentation. As the ACA evolves, AMTA will make its views and progress known to the whole profession.