Skip to main content

The physical therapy community has long understood that the best way to reduce the impact of falls-related injuries in older adults is to prevent them from happening in the first place, and APTA has backed up that idea by way of an analysis that identifies the cost benefit of falls prevention by a PT. Now there are signals that the message may be getting through to Capitol Hill: An APTA-backed bipartisan bill has been introduced that would significantly boost falls screening and prevention among Medicare beneficiaries.

Known as the Stopping Addiction and Falls for the Elderly Act, or SAFE Act (H.R. 7618),the legislation now in the U.S House of Representatives would make falls screening, including those conducted by PTs, a regular part of both the so-called "welcome to Medicare" visit, officially titled the Initial Preventive Physical Examination, and the Medicare Annual Wellness Visit. The bill was introduced by Reps. Carol Miller, R-W.Va., and Melanie Stansbury, D-N.M. APTA strongly supports the legislation.

The idea behind the SAFE Act is twofold: to reduce falls among older adults and, through that reduction, to decrease opioid use that often occurs after a fall injury. Specifically, the bill would ensure that beneficiaries who were identified by their physicians as having experienced a fall in the year prior to their Initial Preventive Physical Examination would be referred to a physical therapist for screening and preventive services. In addition, beneficiaries who've been enrolled in Medicare for at least a year and who choose to participate in an annual wellness visit (different from an annual physical) would be referred for a separate falls risk assessment and potential additional PT services if the annual wellness visit reveals that they've fallen within the previous year.

The SAFE Act aligns with APTA’s ongoing public policy priorities of expanding health benefits under federal programs, such as Medicare, to include coverage for preventive and wellness services provided by physical therapists to help reduce downstream costs. This priority legislation will be part of APTA’s Capitol Hill Day on April 15-16 in Washington, DC

The legislation is also consistent with findings from an APTA report that identified cost savings associated with seeing a PT first or early on for eight common conditions, with falls included in that list. The report, "The Economic Value of Physical Therapy in the United States," concluded that seeing a PT for falls-prevention services was associated with a net cost benefit of approximately $2,100 per episode of care, primarily as a result of the hospital admissions and emergency department visits that could be avoided.

"[The report] shows the cost-effectiveness of physical therapist services for falls prevention and emphasizes the need for improved access to them," said APTA President Roger Herr, PT, MPA, in an APTA news release. "By helping to reduce the risk of falls, this legislation will improve the lives of Medicare beneficiaries and provide cost-savings. The American Physical Therapy Association applauds the leadership of Reps. Miller and Stansbury on this important issue."

You Might Also Like...


Study: ED, Inpatient Visits for Fall Injuries Top $19 Billion Annually

Feb 7, 2024

An analysis of discharge data uncovered patterns that point to the need for more attention on falls prevention.


Landmark APTA Report Makes the Case for Physical Therapy's Economic Value

Sep 27, 2023

The macroeconomic review of eight conditions shows how physical therapy delivers cost-effectiveness through quality-of-life improvements.


Study: Physical Therapy After Dizziness Diagnosis Lowers Fall Risk by 86%

Sep 19, 2023

Patients receiving physical therapy within three months of diagnosis reported significantly lower rates of falls as much as 12 months later.