TRICARE, a major part of the US Department of Defense health care system, has long insisted that physical therapist assistants (PTAs) aren't payable under the program—and for just as long, APTA has advocated that there's no reasonable basis for the exclusion. Now it looks as if APTA's position may be gaining some ground.
On June 28, the US House of Representatives' Committee on Armed Services approved changes to the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that gives the US Secretary of Defense marching orders: conduct a review to figure out how to bring PTAs, occupational therapy assistants, and other support personnel in the TRICARE payment system. The changes, brought forward by Reps Ralph Abraham (R-LA) and Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), were incorporated as part of the committee's mark-up of the NDAA.
The NDAA will move on to a vote by the entire House and, if approved, will be taken up by the Senate. Current language calls for the report from the Secretary of Defense to be completed by April 1, 2018.
"The amendment in committee is only a first step but an important one," said Michael Hurlbut, APTA senior congressional affairs specialist. "It's a change that we hope will ultimately lead to coverage of PTAs under TRICARE."
APTA will continue to monitor progress of the legislation and provide updates.