California residents will have improved access to physical therapist services due to a bill that was signed into law by Gov Jerry Brown on October 7. The signing of the bill, known as Assembly Bill 1000, marks the end of a challenging legislative journey for physical therapists in the state in 2013.
Under the previous law, patients could only be seen for an evaluation, fitness and wellness services, and treatment for a condition that had been the subject of a medical diagnosis. AB 1000, which goes into effect on January 1, 2014, expands patient access to physical therapist services for immediate treatment for up to 45 days or 12 visits, whichever comes first.
"With the ability to evaluate and provide interventions to the direct access patient immediately, physical therapists in California can quickly address the needs of their patients," stated APTA President Paul A. Rockar Jr, PT, DPT, MS.
While the end result of AB 1000 helps California physical therapists achieve the longstanding goal of direct access, the final version also includes language that allows physical therapists to be employed by medical professional corporations. This aspect of the bill was not without controversy, and created debate among some California chapter members, given that the legislation combined two significant and unrelated public policy issues. The provision of the law allowing medical professional corporations to employ physical therapists stipulates that a physician, surgeon, podiatrist, or other referring practitioner must inform patients that they may seek physical therapy treatment services by a practitioner of their own choice, and that the practitioner does not have to be employed by the medical corporation. The legislation also authorizes the organization of physical therapy professional corporations with majority ownership by physical therapists that, as well, may employ other health professionals.
In addition to CPTA's work with AB 1000, the chapter successfully advocated against 2 other bills earlier this year: SB 381, which would prohibit physical therapists from performing manipulations; and AB 864, which would have licensed athletic trainers. Both SB 381 and AB 864 were defeated.
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