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  • 'Prevent Interruptions in Physical Therapy Act' Passes Key Senate Committee

    A bill that would help some physical therapists (PTs) in private practice improve continuity of care has been approved by the US Senate Finance Committee, and could be up for a vote on the Senate floor soon. Known as the Prevent Interruptions in Physical Therapy Act (S. 313), the legislation would extend so-called "locum tenens" provisions to PTs in rural and underserved areas—a change strongly supported by APTA and its Private Practice Section, and one of the advocacy areas targeted at the recent PT Day on Capitol Hill and at the joint APTA/Private Practice Section (PPS) legislative fly-in earlier this year.

    The bill now being discussed would allow a PT to bring in another licensed physical therapist to treat Medicare patients and bill Medicare through the practice provider number during temporary absences for illness, pregnancy, vacation, or continuing medical education. To limit budgetary impact, the legislation was amended to allow locum tenens for PTs only in non-Metropolitan Statistical Areas, Medically Underserved Areas (MUAs), and Health Professions Shortage Areas (HPSAs) as defined by the US Department of Health and Human Services.

    A companion bill has been introduced in the US House of Representatives (H.R. 556). If the bill is approved by Congress and signed into law, private practice PTs in these designated areas would join doctors of medicine, osteopathy, dental surgery, podiatric medicine, optometry, and chiropractic on the list of locum tenens providers.

    The bill was introduced by Sens Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Bob Casey (D-PA) in the Senate; Reps Gus Biliraikis (R-FL) and Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) are leading the House efforts. APTA and PPS collaborated on pressing for the legislation, which APTA identified as a goal of its public policy priorities.

    During the Senate Finance Committee hearing on the bill, Grassley stated that "physical therapists provide important and necessary services to their patients, and should have the ability to ensure continuous care for their patients when a period of short-term leave is needed." Casey added that he and other supporters of locum tenens for PTs "want to keep working until these arrangements are allowed nationwide."

    2015 - 06 - 24 - Locum Tenens Pass PT in Motion News 
     Sen Charles Grassley (R-IA) speaks in favor of locum tenens for PTs.

    "This is a much-needed correction that will have a significant impact on the care some PTs can provide their patients and clients," said Terence Brown, PT, PPS president. "We're extremely pleased with the strong possibility that small or solo physical therapy practices in rural and underserved areas will soon be able to avoid interruptions in care that can truly impact patient progress."

    APTA President Sharon Dunn, PT, PhD, OCS, called the news of the bill's advance a "definite win for physical therapy," saying the success so far is due in large part to the combined efforts of APTA, PPS, and individual members who contacted their legislators—and even showed up in lawmakers' offices in-person during PT Day on Capitol Hill, held June 4.

    "The push for locum tenens is part of larger efforts by APTA and its members to truly transform patient access to care," Dunn said. "We are hopeful for passage of this legislation and, with it, the reduction of an unnecessary regulatory barrier. It's part of a bigger picture that our members see clearly, and we're taking that vision to lawmakers."

    APTA will monitor the progress of the bills and post updates to its locum tenens webpage. Resources on the website include a podcast on the importance of this legislation and information on how PTs can get involved in advocating for its passage.

    Comments

    • Finally a move that makes sense and provides relief to those of us who have wrestled with this issue for many years! I hope it will be passed and put into effect immediately.

      Posted by Jean Thompson on 6/30/2015 7:56 PM

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