Critical Legislation Introduced to Expand Access to Physical Therapy During COVID-19

Today, Representatives Cindy Axne (D-IA), Troy Balderson (R-OH) and French Hill (AR-2) introduced legislation that would allow Medicare patients to receive physical and occupational therapy via telehealth-based appointments.

Telehealth services represent a major piece of the puzzle for ensuring continued access to physical therapy during the COVID-19 public health crisis. While COVID-19 continues to keep vulnerable patient populations isolated at home, passage of this legislation would provide a critical avenue to care for seniors in need of therapy services across the country.

Here’s a key highlight from the legislative text:

“A bill to amend title XI of the Social Security Act to ensure the extension of the telehealth waiver authority of the Secretary of Health and Human Services to physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech language-pathologists, and certain other providers.”

Importantly, the bill would also allow retroactive payment for telehealth appointments furnished from March 1st until the end of the present national health emergency. Over the last several weeks, we’ve heard countless stories from physical therapists across the country – from Detroit to Washington, DC – who have been fighting to ensure patients who rely on physical and occupational therapy services to manage their chronic and acute pain are able to continue receiving these services. This legislation would be a key buttress to increase provider resources and patient access at a time of critical need. 

APTQI applauds Representatives Axne, Balderson and Hill for their bipartisan action on this important issue, and we hope their Congressional colleagues will support them in getting this needed legislation across the finish line. We also hope that this will be another building block to ensuring deserving patients can utilize physical and occupational therapy based services both during and after this health crisis has abated–something APTQI has long advocated for on behalf of the American seniors we have the privilege to serve.