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Tonko, Bilirakis, Luján, and Thune Introduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation to Improve Seniors’ Access to Physical Therapy

  • Rep. Paul Tonko

Washington, D.C.- Earlier today, Representatives Gus Bilirakis and Paul Tonko reintroduced the Prevent Interruptions in Physical Therapy Act. This key legislation builds upon a provision which was signed into law as part of the 21st Century Cures Act to give physical therapists in rural, medically underserved, and health professional shortage areas to the ability to use locum tenens arrangements to ensure their patients continue to receive quality care during a temporary provider absence (e.g. illness, family leave, or continued professional education). The Bilirakis-Tonko legislation extends this same arrangement to ALL physical therapists in the outpatient setting participating in the Medicare program. This represents a significant benefit for Medicare patients, many of whom already face difficulty finding a qualified physical therapist in parts of the country due to a current shortage in the field. When they do begin physical therapy treatment, they don't want that care interrupted due to a temporary provider absence.  A companion bill has been filed by Senators Luján and Thune. 

Interruptions in physical therapy services can have lasting, detrimental effects on patients, and eliminating those gaps in access is especially critical for seniors and those in historically underserved communities,” Congressman Tonko said. “That’s why I’m standing with my colleague, Representative Bilirakis to introduce the Prevent Interruptions in Physical Therapy Act. Our legislation provides a targeted response to this challenge, bolstering our healthcare system and the patients who depend on it. I urge Congress to pass this smart, compassionate bill at once.”

"In recent years, we've seen countless examples of how important it is for our healthcare providers to have greater flexibility to meet patient needs," said Congressman Bilirakis. “Physical therapy is a vital component of our healthcare system, and these providers must also have the flexibility to ensure access to quality care. This legislation will enable them to better achieve that goal."

Nationwide, there are millions of Americans, myself included, who have benefited from physical therapy and received the help they needed to get stronger and better,” said Senator Luján. “As patients embark on their journey to recovery, any interruption in physical therapy can be damaging to a patient’s long-term recovery and health. This bipartisan legislation works to bridge those interruptions and allows physical therapists and patients the flexibility that benefits the provider and the patient.”

"Consistent care by a physical therapist is essential to a patient’s clinical outcome and should be available to everyone," said American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) President Roger Herr, PT, MPA. "The Prevent Interruptions in Physical Therapy Act opens important opportunities for treatment by providing physical therapists support and flexibility to ensure that patient care is not interrupted no matter where a patient lives."

Occasionally, a physical therapist must be away from their outpatient clinic for short periods of time for medical, professional or family reasons. When this happens, they need to be able to bring in a licensed and qualified physical therapist to ensure their patients’ care can continue without interruption,” explained Mike Horsfield, PT, MBA, Private Practice Section of APTA President.  “APTA Private Practice thanks Senator Luján and Representative Bilirakis for reintroducing this impactful, bipartisan legislation to ensure that all seniors can retain continued access to highly skilled care by a qualified physical therapist while also protecting the livelihood of private practice physical therapists."

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