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New Legislation Would Expedite Medicare Patient Access to Physical Therapy

ROSEMONT, Ill., April 7, 2008 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Current Medicare law prohibits dentists from referring patients for physical therapy, but the "Medicare Oral Health Rehabilitative Enhancement Act of 2008" (H.R. 5590) could change this. Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-N.J.) introduced the legislation on March 6 with Congressman Eric Cantor (R-Va.).

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The bill would allow oral and maxillofacial surgeons and other dentists to refer their patients directly for physical therapy.

Oral and maxillofacial surgery (OMS)--the surgical arm of dentistry--regularly treats patients with medical conditions that require physical therapy. These conditions include facial trauma such as jaw fractures, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder and reconstructive procedures. An especially painful and debilitating disease, TMJ involves the inflammation of the joint that connects the lower jaw to the skull. In most cases, all of these conditions require some form of physical therapy after treatment.

As Congressmen Pascrell and Cantor noted in sponsoring the bill, because a dentist or OMS cannot directly refer patients for physical therapy, they must refer patients to an allopathic or osteopathic physician to establish a therapy plan. In his statement of introduction on the floor of the House of Representatives, Pascrell stated, "Such consultation has proven to be inefficient, unnecessary and cumbersome, and it ultimately delays patient treatment and the continuum of care." Pascrell and Cantor noted that dentists should have the right to refer patients for outpatient physical therapy and establish and monitor therapy plans of care for their patients."

The "budget neutral" legislation has the support of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Encouraging and building support for the bill will be a major focus of discussions with members of the U.S. House and Senate during AAOMS' April 16 "Day on the Hill" in Washington, DC.

Saving Faces, Changing Lives -- The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS), the professional organization representing more than 8,000 oral and maxillofacial surgeons in the United States, supports its fellows' and members' ability to practice their specialty through education, research and advocacy. AAOMS fellows and members comply with rigorous continuing education requirements and submit to periodic office examinations, ensuring the public that all office procedures and personnel meet stringent national standards.

SOURCE American Association of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons
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