Patients in Alabama will soon be able to be evaluated and, in certain cases, treated by physical therapists (PTs) without first having to obtain a physician referral. With the enactment of Alabama House Bill 163, Alabama becomes the 47th state to achieve some form of direct access.
HB 163, sponsored by state Rep Ed Henry and signed by Gov Robert Bentley yesterday, goes into effect July 1. Prior to implementation of HB 163, PTs were prohibited from performing a physical therapy evaluation unless the patient had a referral. The new law provides for direct access to evaluation, fitness, wellness, and prevention services, and for treatment under certain conditions.
The legislation, which faced significant opposition, primarily from physician groups, is the culmination of many years of difficult work by the Alabama Chapter. Despite numerous obstacles, fierce and well-financed opponents, and the devastation of the April 27, 2011, tornado, the chapter was able to obtain a compromise from opponents on the bill that allowed its passage by the legislature. Per APTA's Strategic Plan, the chapter was provided direct access grants in 2011 and 2012 from the association.
Read more about the chapter's advocacy efforts in APTA's press release.
Emmett Parker, PT, MS, ATC, legislative chair for the Alabama Chapter, addresses attendees at a rally in 2011 at the Alabama State House in support of direct access to physical therapist services.