PTs Meet With Members of Congress to Discuss Access to Care

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ALEXANDRIA, VA, April 29, 2010 — Physical therapy advocates of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) met with their members of Congress on Tuesday to discuss the importance of direct access to physical therapy services provided under Medicare, the negative effect of arbitrary financial limits (also known as therapy caps) on Medicare Part B outpatient rehabilitative services, and policies that would increase access to care for patients in rural areas and the nation's veterans.

"Each year we come to Washington, DC, on behalf of our patients to tell their stories and educate lawmakers on the significance of eliminating restrictions that require patients to wait for a referral to physical therapy services or end services prematurely when they reach the cap," said APTA President R. Scott Ward, PT, PhD. "While health care reform did increase access to care for some populations, Medicare beneficiaries continue to be subjected to these limiting policies."

Armed with stories from their patients, the physical therapists, physical therapist assistants, and students of physical therapy explained how requiring a physician referral for physical therapy services for Medicare beneficiaries can delay care and result in higher costs, lower patient functional status, and increased hospitalizations. They also stressed the need for an alternative policy to the arbitrary cap on rehabilitative services for seniors.

Additionally, the physical therapy advocates called on their members of Congress to support legislation that would improve the recruitment and retention of physical therapists in the Veterans Health Administration and amend the Public Health Service Act to make certain physical therapists eligible for student loan repayment assistance under the National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program -- providing greater access to needed physical therapy services to the nation's veterans and patients in rural areas.

The visits to Capitol Hill were preceded by an award ceremony in which Rep Xavier Becerra (D-CA) was presented with APTA's 2010 Public Service Award. Becerra has been a lead sponsor of legislation to permanently repeal the therapy caps.

APTA's Federal Advocacy Forum, an annual educational event focused on educating members of Congress about physical therapy issues, drew more than 200 physical therapists, physical therapist assistants, and students of physical therapy to Alexandria, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.

The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) represents more than 74,000 physical therapists, physical therapist assistants, and students of physical therapy nationwide. Learn more about conditions physical therapists can treat and find a physical therapist in your area at www.moveforwardpt.com. Consumers are encouraged to follow us on Twitter (@moveforwardpt) and Facebook.

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