Protect America’s Physical Therapy Patients & Providers During the COVID-19 Crisis
As our nation combats the COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical that skilled care remains available for the millions of patients who rely on physical therapy services to manage their pain, post-operative care, mobility and risk of falling. Thanks to a new rule from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), Medicare beneficiaries will now have increased access to physical therapy through telehealth-based services. By providing skilled physical therapy services either via videoconference or phone call, therapists are able to offer care in a safe, efficient way that meets seniors’ needs, while minimizing the risk of COVID-19 transmission, preventing costly hospitalizations and reducing unnecessary strain on the healthcare system during this public health crisis.
The physical therapy community applauds this critical step by CMS to protect both physical therapy patients and the economic stability of physical therapy practices during this time. While physical therapists are relieved to see this barrier removed, long-term threats to physical therapy access remain.
Physical therapists have another great threat on the horizon:
An estimated 8% payment cut to Medicare therapy services in 2021.
This cut, coupled with a series of payment reductions in recent years, will undermine patient access and lead to negative downstream consequences for American seniors and healthcare delivery system costs. The United States is already in the middle of a national shortage of physical therapists – estimates show that by 2025, an additional 27,000 therapists will be needed to meet demand – and this cut will lead to even greater shortages if practices are forced to close due to dwindling reimbursement.
Now, during this unprecedented crisis, is not the time to implement a severe Medicare reimbursement cut.
Fortunately, Congress has the opportunity to prevent this 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.