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  • President Signs Law Allowing PTAs in TRICARE; Implementation May Not Be Immediate

    Physical therapist assistants (PTAs) are on their way to officially joining the TRICARE payment program used throughout the Department of Defense (DoD) health care system. President Donald Trump's signature on the National Defense Authorization Act enacts a change long advocated by APTA, but what happens next isn't entirely clear.

    One thing that's certain: the change won't take effect immediately. APTA Senior Congressional Affairs Specialist Michael Hurlbut says PTAs should keep themselves updated on the progress of implementation.

    "This is a huge step forward for PTAs, but the law itself simply directs DoD to make the change—it will take some time for actual regulations to be created and put in place," Hurlbut said. "APTA staff are monitoring progress, and will keep members informed of the timeline for the changeover to the expanded TRICARE system."

    The first glimmers of a possible change in TRICARE came in June 2017, when a US House of Representatives committee requested that the Secretary of Defense come up with a plan for bringing PTAs, occupational therapy assistants, and other support personnel into the TRICARE system. From there, action on the idea moved relatively rapidly from the House to a Senate committee, and then on to a vote in the full Senate in November.

    "We're very pleased that this APTA-backed change has been achieved," Hurlbut said. "This addition will make a difference for patients in TRICARE who deserve access to the valuable services provided by PTAs."


    • Woohoo!! Thank you, APTA, for pushing this through!! Being a PTA and the primary aquatic therapy therapist at our facility, I felt sorry for the TRICARE patients who had to been seen by a PT even if that licensed person knew nothing about aquatic rehab.

      Posted by Patricia Thompson on 12/13/2017 5:36 PM

    • I am a veteran and am very thankful I have been given a chance to work with Americas heroes.

      Posted by James Poore on 12/13/2017 7:25 PM

    • Yesssss!

      Posted by Eric on 12/13/2017 7:48 PM

    • Great news. APTA must monitor the progress.

      Posted by Moses M.Ogutu on 12/13/2017 8:47 PM

    • This is great news! PTAs should be allowed to work with Tricare patients, it will improve the accessibility of these patients ability to receive quality care. Way to go APTA for advocating for PTAs as quality health care professionals!

      Posted by Jamie Faison PTA on 12/14/2017 12:29 PM

    • Awesome!! Finally it looks like we can give equal care opportunities in the clinic !! improving treatment frequency with make it a better experience for our Tricare patients!

      Posted by David on 12/15/2017 8:29 AM

    • Do you when this we take place? It’s great that they will allow then to see the patients. But what’s the time frame before we can start scheduling them with the P. T. Assistants?

      Posted by Michelle Joyner on 1/29/2018 9:21 PM

    • @Michelle: Great question. We are working with Congress and the Defense Health Agency/TRICARE to get a better idea as to how long it will take for this policy to be fully implemented. Until we get an update, we cannot speculate as to when physical therapist assistants can be used to help treat TRICARE patients. Please stay updated by checking our news feed.

      Posted by APTA Staff on 1/30/2018 4:21 PM

    • President TRUMP is Making Physical Therapy Great Again! Another WIN for TRUMP and Physical Therapy!

      Posted by Robert Springer on 1/30/2018 4:51 PM

    • How is it legal then for PTA's to provide the treatments on military bases?

      Posted by Jeanine McLellan -> BNS[AH on 3/1/2018 8:36 AM

    • Is there a status update regarding a timeline for the implementation of this change?

      Posted by Summer Powell on 3/7/2018 12:02 PM

    • Called Tricare today to check on implementation for this program. Services provided by PTAs still come up in their system as not eligible for cost-sharing, i.e. non-covered.

      Posted by Monica Mallary on 3/9/2018 3:16 PM

    • Do we know when this will be implemented? It has been 4 months since it was signed and nothing has changed as far as our practice. We are constantly contacting Tricare in regards to this and nothing changes.

      Posted by Christy Jones on 3/13/2018 1:10 PM

    • What about residents in skilled nursing facility that use Med A as primary and have Tricare as secondary?

      Posted by Preeti chhatwal on 3/17/2018 11:59 AM

    • I talked with them a week ago and their system still wasn't updated to have PTAs and COTAs credentialed as authorized providers for reimbursement. The Humana Military system is so backed log, it's taken over 1.5 months for a new PT to get credentialed, whereas, last year, it only took a week.

      Posted by Earlene on 3/18/2018 6:19 PM

    • I attempted to check out on the tricare site to see if there was any update as to when the PTA can treat patients, is there any update when this might start?

      Posted by Shaunna on 4/16/2018 5:24 PM

    • As a military retiree and a PTA I find it amazing that this cannot be implemented sooner. In the Army, if there is a change to an existing regulation, they put out a change document to implement quicker. When they get multiple changes, they then publish an updated regulation. Seems that DoD can do similarly.

      Posted by Marianne on 4/17/2018 1:59 PM

    • is it okay for a PTA to see Tricare patients now? The clinic I work at have started implementing it in April at one of our clinics, but the one I am at we have been waiting for a date/roll out period. Before I begin seeing them based on assumption, I would like clarity. Thanks!

      Posted by juliana on 5/21/2018 7:27 AM

    • Although the National Defense Authorization Act of 2017, signed on December 12, included a provision adding PTAs (and OTAs) as authorized providers under TRICARE, this change is not yet effective. The change to regulation will be implemented through the notice and comment rulemaking process. We expect the proposed rule will be released in the Fall of 2018 or Spring of 2019. Following release of the proposed rule, there will be a 60 day public comment period. The DoD will then review the comments and draft and publish the final rule. Until the rule is finalized and published, TRICARE does not consider a PTA as an authorized provider.

      Posted by APTA Staff on 5/22/2018 8:34 AM

    • Where is the best place to track updates on the National Defense Authorization Act regarding implementation?

      Posted by Scott Cunningham on 10/23/2018 2:42 PM

    • @Scott: More information--including a timeline for implementation--can be found at http://www.apta.org/Payment/TRICAREVA/ (scroll down and look for the "TRICARE" header). You can also email advocacy@apta.org with questions. Thanks!

      Posted by APTA Staff on 10/23/2018 4:11 PM

    • I need to know if PTA's can see TriWest HealthCare Allilance patients and be reimbursed? Is this the same as TriCare patients? I know we can't right now with TriCare is there a time frame for TriCare? Also VA-Choice? Do you have any information for the three above especially TriWest and VA-Choice?

      Posted by Chase on 10/10/2019 9:47 AM

    • @Chase: TriWest is the VA’s Patient-Centered Community Care (PC3) Program contractor. They reimburse for services furnished by PTAs. All state- and Medicare-related requirements for the use of physical therapy and occupational therapy assistants must still be followed. Additionally, your medical documentation should clearly indicate which services the assistant provided, versus the services the therapist provided. The VA Choice Program has been consolidated into the Veterans Community Care Program. VA is now awarding contracts under the new Community Care Network to private sector contractors to develop and administer regional networks of licensed health care providers. For more information: https://www.va.gov/COMMUNITYCARE/providers/Community_Care_Network.asp

      Posted by APTA Staff on 10/10/2019 10:20 AM

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