Habilitative Services

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People with Disabilities Face Complex Choices under Obamacare

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

By Eric Whitney, Kaiser Health News

We’ve heard a lot about how Obamacare will allow “apples-to-apples” comparisons of health plans. The Affordable Care Act requires insurers to meet what are called essential health benefits which outline what health insurance companies must now cover. But there’s a catch: Insurance firms still have some wiggle room as to specific therapies they’ll cover within some of those essential health benefits categories. And the way insurers interpret the rules could turn out to be a big deal for people with disabilities who need ongoing therapy to improve their day-to-day lives.

People who want to have specific therapies covered are going to have to slog through some fine print.
Take a look, for example,  at Bryce Vernon. He is a 20-year-old film student in Los Angeles who has cerebral palsy. He speaks only with the aid of a special computer mounted to his wheelchair that tracks his eye movements. Using his eyes, Vernon can indicate on a screen what letters and words he wants the computer’s voice to say.

It’s amazing technology, and Vernon gets a lot more out of it with help from speech-language pathologist Jill Tullman.

“Now Bryce, I want to show you this super cool random button I think you’re going to love,” Tullman tells him during a therapy session at a special camp for young people who use the technology. Vernon’s parents paid out-of-pocket for him to attend the camp. Continue reading

Just What Are ‘Habilitative Services’? Hint: Think Health Insurance and Chronically Ill Kids

Taylor Gaydon (R) -- a 15-year-old with Type 1 diabetes -- prepares to zipline with friends at a weekend diabetes camp in Livermore. (Photo: Elaine Korry)

Taylor Gaydon (R) — a 15-year-old with Type 1 diabetes — prepares to zipline with friends at a weekend diabetes camp in Livermore. (Photo: Elaine Korry)

You’re likely familiar with rehabilitation — physical therapy after an injury would fall into this category. But parents with chronically ill children are all too familiar with a different type of service — habilitation service — as Elaine Korry detailed Monday morning for The California Report.  From her story:

“Habilitative services are really just making sure that a child can thrive in the world that they’re living in, so, for example, hearing aids are a habilitative service,” says Kelly Hardy, director of health policy at Children Now, a statewide advocacy group.  …

Dr. Thomas Long, a health financing expert with the American Academy of Pediatrics, says it helps young patients, like deaf kids, attain health in the first place. Continue reading