A Chat with Agility Spine and Sports Physical Therapy Owner Mark Roberts about Physical Therapy During the COVID-19 Crisis

As our nation continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of Medicare patients have lost access to the physical therapy services they rely on to manage their pain, post-operative care, mobility and risk of falling.

While telehealth services could represent a major piece of the puzzle for ensuring continued access to physical therapy, CMS still needs to issue a waiver to allow physical and occupational therapists to provide telehealth services to Medicare beneficiaries during this crisis.

And as physical therapists fight to receive reimbursement for treating patients via telehealth, they have another great threat on the horizon: An estimated 8% payment cut to Medicare therapy services in 2021.

We recently spoke with Mark Roberts, the owner of Agility Spine and Sports Physical Therapy in Tucson, AZ, about how this crisis is impacting his patients and practice, and his concerns about the looming Medicare cuts.

We asked Mark the following questions:

  • What are your topline observations about how the COVID-19 crisis has impacted physical therapy patients and their therapists? (0:22)
  • The patients most at risk of COVID-19 transmission, such as older Medicare beneficiaries, are also the most in need of physical therapy during this crisis. How is your practice reaching Medicare
    beneficiaries who aren’t visiting clinics right now? (1:32)
  • Due to a lack of Medicare payment for telehealth–based services provided by a physical therapist, I imagine countless patients have had their continuity of care interrupted. Looking beyond the present crisis, what downstream effects might we expect as a result of this interruption? (2:11)
  • What steps need to be taken to allow therapists to perform telehealth services for Medicare beneficiaries? (3:07)
  • Since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis and subsequent statewide “stay at home orders,” how dramatic has the drop been in physical therapy visits across clinics? (3:52)
  • How do you anticipate this drop off will impact your business long-term? (4:37)
  • What are some of your biggest concerns as we look past this crisis? (5:35)
  • We know that physical therapists face another big threat at the end of this year – an 8% Medicare payment cut. What can Congress do to help physical therapists? (7:22)
  • If you could share one message with Congress and the general public about what it is like to be in the physical therapy profession right now, what would it be? (8:34)
  • Anything we haven’t covered that you’d like to add? (9:41)

Congress has the opportunity to prevent this Medicare cut before any more seniors lose access to care. By waiving the budget neutrality requirement in the 2020 PFS rule, lawmakers can save therapy service reimbursement from the 8% cut while also allowing for other code increases to go into effect. This waiver is supported by more than 100 health care professional societies and associations, including the American Medical Association.

Click here to ask Congress to protect access to physical therapy.