The importance of postpartum pelvic health in general — and the role of pelvic health physical therapy in particular — could get a major boost in Medicaid, thanks to the introduction of a bipartisan, APTA-supported bill in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Known as the "Optimizing Postpartum Outcomes Act" (H.R. 8181), the bill directs the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to develop several provisions that would significantly strengthen Medicaid's emphasis on pelvic care for mothers in the postpartum period, which the bill defines as the period of lactation or six months from the last day of pregnancy, whichever is later. The bill is co-sponsored by Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., and Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del.
In a win for the profession, the legislation includes pelvic floor physical therapy among the pelvic floor services that would be covered under Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP. The bill also instructs the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to develop and issue guidance on best practices, financing options, screenings, referrals, and access, as well as terminology and diagnostic codes. Additionally, if the law passes, HHS would be required to educate and train health professionals and postpartum women on the importance of pelvic health and pelvic health physical therapy.
APTA's government affairs staff collaborated with APTA Pelvic Health and its Pre-Natal & 4th Trimester Task Force to help legislators shape the language included in the bill.
"It’s been an amazing opportunity to work with APTA and legislators to create a bill advocating for both patients and the physical therapy profession," said task force chair Gail Zitterkopf, PT, DPT. "H.R. 8181 is an excellent opportunity to educate and advocate for all patients though their pregnancy and recovery journey, and a way to help communities and health providers better understand the role of pelvic health physical therapy."
"We look forward to postpartum individuals receiving widespread support and education as well as empowering individuals to seek these services in a timely manner, and this legislation is a major step forward," said Heather Jeffcoat, PT, DPT, APTA Pelvic Health president. "With better awareness of pelvic health and improved access to pelvic health physical therapy, there's a real opportunity to make a difference in conditions that can at times be managed with just a few visits."
APTA government affairs staff is tracking progress of the legislation and will share developments as they occur.