Legislation to Increase Access to Physical Therapy Services for Patients in Underserved Communities

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ALEXANDRIA, VA, April 8, 2011 — Recognizing that rural and urban underserved communities are too often unable to obtain needed services by physical therapists (PTs), in part due to the significant student loan debt they carry, Reps Jo Ann Emerson (MO-R) and Mike Ross (AR-D) introduced legislation yesterday that would authorize PTs to participate in the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Loan Repayment Program, says the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA).

"We're extremely grateful that Representatives Emerson and Ross have put forth the Physical Therapist Student Loan Repayment Eligibility Act (HR 1426) to ensure that our nation's rural residents and those who live in underserved urban communities have access to needed physical therapy services," said APTA President R. Scott Ward, PT, PhD. "Too often student debt keeps PTs from practicing in these areas where salaries tend to be lower. This legislation would make it easier for PTs to seek careers in all locations where they are needed."

According to an APTA survey of recent graduates (1-5 years out of school), the average loan debt related to physical therapy programs was $83,138, with the total average debt for this group of students being $96,149. In this same survey, 63% responded "yes" when asked if student loan debt affected their job choice. The NHSC loan repayment program provides up to $30,000 in loan forgiveness per year for 2 years of service in an underserved area.

The US Senate is expected to introduce companion legislation to HR 1426 soon.

The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) represents more than 77,000 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.