Under current law, private practice physical therapists are not able to bring in another licensed physical therapist through the Medicare program to their professional practices when they are temporarily absent due to illness, pregnancy, vacation or continuing medical education. The ability to bring in a temporary provider is known as a locum tenens, an arrangement some other providers are currently eligible for in the Medicare program. For many physical therapists in private practice, this means that they may be unable to take these absences or patient care can be interrupted.
These arrangements are beneficial to both patients and providers as care is continued by another licensed qualified provider during their temporary absence. Particularly in rural areas, a locum tenens provider can keep a small practice open to serve patients who would otherwise have to travel large distances to another provider. Using these arrangements, a provider is able to ensure that their patient care does not lapse or appointments are not missed. APTA believes this legislation would relieve the burden on private practitioners as well as provide uninterrupted patient care to Medicare beneficiaries.
On October 30, 2013, Representatives Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) and Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) introduced the Prevent Interruptions in Physical Therapy Act of 2013 (HR 3426), which would allow physical therapists to enter into locum tenens arrangements under Medicare.
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