The Occupation Therapy Schools Association, which represents about 80 percent of occupational therapists in the United States, is warning of a $1 billion economic loss due to the Occupational Therapists Act.
The bill passed the House of Representatives on Tuesday with a vote of 240-186.
It passed the Senate on Wednesday, and it now heads to President Donald Trump for his signature.
The legislation would repeal a 2008 law that requires occupational therapists to obtain a license before they could practice their specialty, but allow them to train and supervise up to five employees.
The House passed the bill last year by a vote that was 172-206.
But the Senate version was opposed by a number of key members of the House and Senate, including the Republican-controlled Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which also includes the chairwoman of the committee, Sen. Susan Collins.
The Senate passed the legislation after an effort by Democrats to weaken the bill was defeated by Republicans.
The bill’s supporters argued that it was necessary to protect the profession from a wave of employers seeking to hire more workers, but it was opposed in both the House’s and Senate’s versions of the bill.
The American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Occupational Medicine, the Occupation Therapies Association, American Medical Association and the American Occupational Association all voted against the bill, saying it did not protect therapists from employers.
“We are deeply concerned about the potential for unintended and costly consequences of this bill,” the American Psychological Assn.
wrote in a statement on Tuesday.
The Occupations Education Association, a nonprofit organization representing more than 2,000 occupational therapists, said it opposed the bill because it “will likely be implemented by employers without the patient protections that the American Association of Occupation Education and the Occupations Therapy Assoc.
are committed to protecting.”
The American Academy for Occupational Education, which advocates for occupational therapists’ rights and protections, also wrote in its statement that “the bill could result in a loss of quality training opportunities, reduced access to career opportunities, increased turnover and diminished compensation.”
The American Association for Occupation Medicine, a professional association for occupational health professionals, called the bill a “misguided, overbroad, unnecessary and potentially harmful” expansion of the profession.
“While the bill does provide certain protections, such as requiring licensure, it is not enough to protect occupational therapists from a rapidly growing number of employers,” the association said.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who sponsored the bill in the House, argued in a floor speech on Tuesday that the bill is not about protecting therapists.
“It is about allowing employers to get away with what they want,” Pelosi said.
“The bill does not protect the occupation from an expansion of employers, but from a very small group of employers.”
But in an interview with CNN’s Erin Burnett, Democratic Rep. John Lewis, D, Ga., argued that the legislation would have a devastating effect on the profession, especially for those who specialize in social work.
“I don’t think there is any doubt that there will be an immediate impact on occupational therapists,” Lewis said.
He added that the new bill would “put them in the middle of the field, where they would have to contend with a whole new wave of discrimination and abuse.”
Lewis said that he supports the bill for the right reasons.
“This bill does more than just protect people who are trained to be licensed,” he said.
And the bill “would allow people to go to school and be able to do what they have been trained to do.”
Pelosi has repeatedly urged the Trump administration to sign the bill into law.