Physical Therapists Rally in Support of Patient Access to Care

Members of Congress join Capitol Hill event aimed at decreasing barriers to care  

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ALEXANDRIA, VA, June 9, 2011 — Sens Jon Tester (D-MT) and Roger Wicker (R-MS) addressed approximately 1,000 physical therapists (PTs), physical therapist assistants, and students of physical therapy on Capitol Hill today as they rallied in support of legislation to increase patient access to rehabilitative care, says the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA).

The physical therapy professionals, who are attending their annual meeting at the Gaylord Hotel in National Harbor, Maryland, cheered as the speakers urged them to continue to fight for policies that protect patients by reducing barriers to care.

"My bi-partisan, common sense bill is a simple way to bring much-needed health care professionals to rural America," said Tester, sponsor of the Physical Therapist Student Loan Repayment Eligibility Act (HR 1426/S 975). "Expanding the National Health Service Corps to include physical therapists will encourage more of these essential health care professionals to work in rural and underserved parts of this country."

"Rural and underserved areas in Mississippi often have limited access to the services of physical therapists," said Wicker. "The Physical Therapist Student Loan Repayment Eligibility Act would help eliminate these problems by recruiting physical therapists to practice in these communities, increasing health care access for Mississippians, as well as other needed areas of the United States. By providing student loan repayment options, physical therapists will have assistance in beginning their careers."

Following the event, rally participants met with their members of Congress to ask them to support HR 1426/S 975. They also brought attention to 2 other important pieces of proposed legislation—the Medicare Access to Rehabilitation Services Act (HR 1546/S 829), legislation that would repeal the arbitrary "cap" on outpatient rehabilitative services for Medicare beneficiaries, and the Protecting Student Athletes from Concussions Act (HR 469), a bill that includes physical therapists in the multidisciplinary team of licensed health care providers that is qualified to evaluate and manage concussions. HR 469 would allow for the development of concussion management guidelines that address the prevention, identification, treatment, and management of concussions in school-aged children.

"The sheer size of this rally illustrates how important these issues are to our patients," said APTA President R. Scott Ward, PT, PhD. "We're here today to tell all members of Congress that Medicare's policy limiting physical therapy services for our nation's seniors many times results in delayed or rationed treatment, which, in turn, can lead to poorer outcomes." Ward added, "As for rural residents and those in underserved areas, many have difficulties accessing physical therapist services because current policy doesn't support physical therapists who seek employment in these areas. We thank Senators Tester and Wicker for putting this legislation on Congress's agenda. It's time to put policies in place that ensure all patients, not just those in large metropolitan areas, have ample choices when making health care decisions."  

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.

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