'Tis the season—that time of year when state legislatures are drafting and debating new laws, many of which have a direct impact on physical therapists (PTs), physical therapist assistants (PTAs), and their patients and clients.
APTA has been working closely with its state chapters to advocate for the profession during what's shaping up to be a packed legislative year.
Here's a rundown of where some of the big issues stand in statehouses across the country.
Physical therapy licensure compact.
This game-changing concept could make it easier for PTs to practice and PTAs to work in multiple states, but for the compact to become operational, at least 10 states need to participate in the system. At the end of 2016, the compact was 40% there, with Arizona, Oregon, Missouri, and Tennessee adopting the necessary language.
Could this be the year it happens? Compact legislation has already been signed into law in 4 more states—Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, and North Dakota—and bills have been introduced in Colorado, Florida, Illinois, New Hampshire, North Carolina, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and Washington.
Fair physical therapy copays.
Seeing to it that patients can access affordable PT services remains a top priority for APTA and its chapters, which have been working together to advocate for limits on insurance copays and patient cost-sharing. This year, copay legislation has been introduced in Georgia, Illinois, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
Title and term protection. Bills have been introduced to restrict use of terms and titles such as "DPT," "physical therapy," or "physiotherapy” in Alaska, Rhode Island, Nevada, New York, and New Jersey, so that these terms and titles may be used only by PTs. South Dakota has already signed a law that not only establishes title protection for "DPT" but adds continuing education requirements as a condition for PT and PTA licensure renewal.
Although some form of direct access exists in every state, the actual scope of the access varies, with some states placing limits on how patients obtain treatment from a PT. This year, legislation has been introduced in Missouri and Texas that would remove some direct access restrictions.
Practice act updates.
Ohio, New Jersey, and Rhode Island are considering legislation that would update the physical therapy practice acts in those states to include more contemporary language around what constitutes the "practice of physical therapy."