As the country's health care system faces historic challenges, PTs and PTAs are uniquely positioned to respond with patient-centered, cost-effective, value-based care — but only if barriers to providing that care are reduced. That's the foundation of APTA's public policy and advocacy plan for the next two years targeting payment reform, population health, improved patient access, and support for research and innovation.
The APTA Public Policy Priorities, 2023-2024 establishes a road map for the association's advocacy efforts during the 118th U.S. Congress, which convened in January. The priorities continue APTA's efforts to work for a more equitable, outcomes-based, and patient-centered health care system that recognizes the value of physical therapy — a value that's been heightened through both the COVID-19 pandemic and the nation's resurgent opioid crisis.
Developed by the APTA Public Policy and Advocacy Committee, informed by a range of member experts, and approved by the APTA Board of Directors, the document is meant to be an externally facing resource that sets out the association's fundamental policy principles for members of Congress, Hill staff, federal agencies, and the administration. The eight-page document isn't intended to list every advocacy effort but instead highlights the overarching themes of APTA's legislative work. This short video provides a quick overview of the purpose and advocacy aims of the priorities.
Physical Therapy: Untapped Potential at a Crucial Moment
The priorities document asserts that "greater access to physical therapist services is integral to addressing some of the historic challenges being faced in our health care system" but points out a disconnect when it comes to health care policy.
"Unfortunately, while the physical therapy profession is uniquely positioned to help our country respond to these challenges and more, PTs face barriers to providing needed care," the document states. "The profession is experiencing workforce shortages in rural and underserved areas, increased administrative burdens, shrinking patient access, and unsustainable year-over-year cuts under Medicare. For physical therapy to make a difference, PTs must be empowered to provide the care that's needed right now."
Four Broad Areas of Focus
The overarching goals of APTA's public policy priorities for 2023 and 2024 are divided into four broad categories: patient access and care, population health and social determinants of health, value-based care and practice, and research and clinical innovation. Within each category, the priorities list several objectives. Among them: reform of the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule, reduced administrative burden, more investment in prevention and wellness, models that support PTs as an entry point to care, and increased funding for research that includes physical therapist services, with more involvement of PTs in the development of outcome, process, and quality measures.
An Invitation to Help Fuel Transformation
"APTA's public policy priorities provide decisionmakers with an easy-to-understand road map of where we think our country needs to go," says Aaron Bishop, APTA senior vice president of public affairs. "This outline serves as a starting place for the deeper conversations that need to happen if we want to truly address the health care needs of the American people. It's our opening statement in the case we're making for the transformative power of physical therapy and the many opportunities available that would empower the profession to make a difference."