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  • US House Approves Bill to Help Fund Greater Diversity in PT, Other Health Care Education Programs

    APTA-supported legislation to encourage greater diversity in physical therapy programs has cleared an important hurdle: this week, the US House of Representatives passed a bill that would appropriate additional federal money for scholarships and stipends for students from underrepresented populations. Next stop—the US Senate.

    The bill that passed the House unanimously, called the "Educating Medical Professionals and Optimizing Workforce Efficiency and Readiness for Health Act" ( HR 2781) broadly focuses on educational issues in health care. Included in that bill was the Allied Health Workforce Diversity Act of 2019, a bill that specifically targets education programs in physical therapy, occupational therapy, audiology, and speech-language pathology. The diversity act was sponsored by Reps Bobby Rush (D-IL) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and strongly supported by APTA.

    The diversity act would provide grants for use by accredited education programs in physical therapy, occupational, therapy, audiology, and speech-language pathology. The funds would allow programs to issue scholarships or stipends to students from racial and ethnic minorities, as well as to students from disadvantaged backgrounds including economic status and disability. That bill was included in its entirety as part of the broader health care education package.

    The provisions are consistent with APTA's strategic plan, which identifies greater provider diversity as necessary to ensure the long-term sustainability of the physical therapy profession. APTA, the American Occupational Therapy Association,the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, and the American Academy of Audiology are working together to press for adoption.

    "The idea that health care professions should be as diverse as the populations they serve is an important one for APTA, and this legislation is a welcome step in the right direction," said APTA President Sharon Dunn, PT, PhD. "Diversity strengthens our profession, which in turn makes us better able to meet the needs of our patients and clients. That diversity must include the education programs that are creating the next generation of physical therapists and physical therapist assistants."

    “We are grateful to Representatives Bobby Rush and Cathy McMorris Rodgers for their leadership and support in getting this bipartisan bill through the House of Representatives,” said Justin Elliott, APTA vice president of governmental affairs. “We are also grateful to all of the APTA members who advocated in support of this important legislation.”

    A companion bill is expected to be introduced in the US Senate on Wednesday, October 30.

    The legislation is just one of several bills and issues APTA is advocating on during this session of the US Congress, which includes APTA-supported legislation aimed at addressing administrative burden and prior authorization (HR 3107), PT student loan debt (HR 2802/S. 970), home health payment issues (S 433 / HR 2573), Medicare fee schedule, self-referral, and more.