April 16, 2008
I read with great interest your recent article titled "Study: Boomers to flood medical system."
Many of today's baby boomers are as active as they were when they were younger and will likely enter the Medicare system with chronic conditions such as low back pain and osteoarthritis in addition to the more complex conditions associated with aging.
Physical therapists understand the anatomical and physiological changes that occur with normal aging and can help restore older patients to their highest level of functioning possible. This may be accomplished through plans of care that increase range of motion, strength, flexibility, coordination, balance, and endurance or by improving overall fitness through exercise programs or working to reduce pain.
Despite support by states and insurers for allowing patients to go directly to a physical therapist without a physician's referral, Medicare patients must still get a referral prior to receiving physical therapy. This is particularly burdensome because going directly to a physical therapist has been shown to reduce treatment delays, lower costs, shorten treatment times, and require fewer office visits for patients.
As you mentioned in your article, the impending cuts in Medicare payments slated for July will even further limit the ability to meet the increased demands placed by baby boomers needing Medicare. Physical therapist treatment can offer a long-term solution to an immediate problem.
R Scott Ward, PT, PhD
American Physical Therapy Association