Thursday, December 08, 2016 PT Locum Tenens, Rehab Research Among Victories in New Health Care Legislation The 21st Century Cures Act—sweeping health care legislation touches on everything from mental health coverage to the regulatory approval process for new drugs—also contains some good news specifically for physical therapists (PTs) and supporters of rehabilitation research. The bill, passed by both the US House of Representatives and the Senate, contains 2 provisions that have been high on APTA's advocacy list: the inclusion of PTs among the health professionals permitted to enter into locum tenens arrangements, and language that will increase that stature of—and funding for—rehabilitation research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). President Barack Obama is expected to sign the legislation into law before leaving office. The locum tenens portion of the legislation 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. Only PTs in non-Metropolitan Statistical Areas, Medically Underserved Areas, and Health Professions Shortage Areas as defined by the US Department of Health and Human Services would qualify for the program. The Cures Act also includes legislation that will improve coordination of rehabilitation research throughout NIH, and require the development of a comprehensive rehabilitation research plan, updated every 5 years. The first version of that 5-year plan was unveiled in September, with APTA Chief Executive officer Justin Moore, PT, DPT, calling the roadmap "a long awaited and significant step forward" for research efforts. "The inclusion of PTs in locum tenens arrangements and the recognition of the importance of rehabilitation research are big wins for the physical therapy profession but, more important, for patients," said Justin Elliott, APTA vice president of governmental affairs. "APTA and other stakeholders worked hard to make the case for both of these issues, and we're pleased to see that legislators are showing increased understanding of the important role physical therapy and PTs can play in the future of health care." Other provisions in the act that could also affect PTs: a requirement that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) take a closer look at expanding the range of telehealth services under Medicare (including an expansion of originating sites of these services), and a delay in the implementation of Medicare fee schedule adjustments for wheelchair accessories and seating systems when used with complex rehabilitation technology wheelchairs. Under the Cures Act, the adjustments would begin in July 1, 2017, instead of January 1 of 2017. The more wide-ranging provisions of the legislation also include $1 billion in state grants to help fund efforts to battle the opioid epidemic.