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Legislation Aims to Increase Access to Physical Therapist Services By Eliminating Physician Referral Requirement
Date:4/1/2009

ALEXANDRIA, Va., April 1 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Medicare beneficiaries who need physical therapist services would find it easier and more efficient to obtain treatment under legislation introduced yesterday in the US House of Representatives. The Medicare Patient Access to Physical Therapists Act (HR 1829), introduced by Representatives Earl Pomeroy (D-ND), Tim Murphy (R-PA), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), eliminates the need for beneficiaries to obtain a physician referral for physical therapy services.

"Direct access under Medicare would remove unnecessary barriers to the cost-effective rehabilitation services provided by physical therapists," said APTA President R Scott Ward, PT, PhD. "Currently these health care consumers, which include seniors and people with disabilities, often have the greatest need for physical therapy services and experience unnecessary burdens to access these services. The referral process can often cause delays that can impede a patient's ability to achieve his or her optimal functional outcome. In light of today's economic environment, timely access to cost-effective physical therapy services for Medicare beneficiaries is critical."

Forty-eight states and the District of Columbia have eliminated the physician referral requirement for patients to access physical therapists for an evaluation, while 44 states and DC allow access to some form of physical therapy treatment without referral. This legislation would defer to the state law on access regarding physical therapy.

"Requiring Medicare patients to get a physician referral before they can see a physical therapist puts an undue burden on residents of rural areas who often travel long distances just to see their doctor," Representative Pomeroy said. "Removing the physician referral requirement would save valuable time and money for Medicare patients in North Dakota and across the country."

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SOURCE American Physical Therapy Association
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