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  • Foundation Awards $300,000 to Investigate Physical Therapy Referral

    The Foundation for Physical Therapy recently awarded a $300,000 high-impact research grant to Jean Mitchell, PhD, to investigate the influence of physical therapy referral characteristics and practices on quality, cost effectiveness, and utilization.

    The purpose of Mitchell's project will be to investigate the effects of physician self-referral arrangements on the provision of physical therapy services. Data from multiple sources will be analyzed to determine whether the initiation of physical therapy differs for physicians who have established self-referral arrangements compared with those who do not self-refer, whether the composition of physical therapy treatments differs between these 2 groups, and whether there is a higher overall cost associated with physical therapy self-referral arrangements.

    Mitchell, a professor of public policy at Georgetown University, received her PhD in economics from Vanderbilt University. Her health policy research has been published in refereed journals such as Health Affairs, Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, and Medical Care, and her work has been funded by sources such as the National Institutes of Health National Institute on Aging.

    This high-impact study focusing on a profession-deemed, high-priority research area was made possible by funding from APTA and its Private Practice Section, Orthopaedic Section, and Florida Chapter; the Institute of Private Practice Physical Therapy; the American Academy of Orthopaedic Manual Physical Therapists; Evidence in Motion; and the Physical Therapy Business Alliance.

    APTA Highlights Falls Prevention on HHS Blog

    APTA's latest post on the Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) Be Active Your Way blog explains the role of balance training and evidence-based balance exercise programs in helping to prevent falls. The post also discusses how successful partnerships between physical therapists and community agencies, such as senior centers, older adult housing, churches, fitness and wellness centers, and nutrition sites, can help reach populations at risk of falls and deliver the recommended type and amount of exercise. Written by APTA member experts and students, Promoting Exercise for Improved Balance and Falls Prevention recognizes National Falls Awareness Prevention Day, which was celebrated September 22, the first day of fall.

    House Proposal Town Hall Discussion Scheduled for September 27

    Thanks to the many members who have joined the virtual town halls to discuss the House governance proposals! The discussions have been rich and the input very informative. The next town hall is Thursday, September 27 (2 sessions: 6:00 pm-7:30 pm and 10:00 am-11:30 pm ET), and you will choose the topic. What would you like to discuss? What topic have we missed? Let us know. Suggest ideas via the AdditionalThoughts comment blog posted to www.apta.org/governancereview. Please contact Amber Neil if you are interested in attending. Can't join the Town Hall? Have your voice heard via the comment blogs on the following topics: House constituency, House activity, and Resolutions Committee.

    National Robotics Initiative Includes 3 Rehab Projects

    A collaboration among the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and 3 other federal agencies aims to accelerate the development of the next generation of robotics, called corobotics. These projects include robots that help engineers better design prosthetic legs for patients with amputation, miniature robot pills that help doctors diagnose and treat disease, and microrobots that help researchers make artificial tissues.

    Along with the National Science Foundation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the United States Department of Agriculture, NIH will find 6 projects over the next 4 years. The projects are expected to receive $4.4 million in funding.

    In addition to the below-knee prostheses project, 2 other projects have implications for the physical therapy profession. The goal of Control of Powered Segmented Legs for Humanoids and Rehabilitation Robotics is to uncover the principles behind the biomechanical design and neuromuscular control of human legs in a variety of gaits and to transfer these principles to the design and control of powered leg prostheses and robotic rehabilitation devices.

    Another proposal, titled Brain Machine Interface Control of a Therapeutic Exoskeleton, plans to combine a human-robot interface with a noninvasive brain-machine to allow the patient to use his or her thoughts to control the movement of the robot to better rehabilitate the upper limb affected by stroke.

    Six Million People Expected to Pay Mandate Penalty in 2016

    A new federal report estimates about 6 million people will pay a penalty because they are uninsured in 2016, a figure that includes uninsured dependents who have the penalty paid on their behalf. Total collections will be about $7 billion in 2016 and average about $8 billion per year over the 2017-2022 period.

    The penalty will be the greater of a flat dollar amount per person that rises from $95 in 2014 and  $325 in 2015 to $695 in 2016 and is indexed by inflation thereafter (the penalty for children will be half that amount and an overall cap will apply to family payments) or a percentage of the household's income that rises to 2.5% for 2016 and subsequent years (also subject to a cap).

    The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) estimate that about 30 million nonelderly residents will be uninsured in 2016, but the majority of them will not be subject to the penalty tax. Unauthorized immigrants, for example, who are prohibited from receiving almost all Medicaid benefits and all subsidies through the insurance exchanges, are exempted from the mandate to obtain health insurance. Others will be subject to the mandate but exempted from the penalty tax—for example, because they will have income low enough that they are not required to file an income tax return, because they are members of Indian tribes, or because the premium they would have to pay would exceed a specified share of their income (initially 8% in 2014 and indexed over time). CBO and JCT estimate that between 18 million and 19 million uninsured people in 2016 will qualify for 1 or more of those exemptions.

    Of the remaining 11 million to 12 million uninsured people, some individuals will be granted exemptions from the penalty because of hardship, and others will be exempted from the requirement on the basis of their religious beliefs.