Critical Legislation to Expand Physical Therapy Access Introduced

As the nation works to address the growing gaps, delays, and changes in healthcare created by the COVID-19 pandemic, Representatives Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Paul Tonko (D-NY) are taking bipartisan action to ensure and expand access to physical therapy. On March 10, the Congressmen introduced the Prevent Interruptions in Physical Therapy Act (H.R. 1611), which builds upon a provision to give physical therapists in rural, medically underserved, and health professional shortage areas the ability to use locum tenens to provide their patients with uninterrupted quality care.

Locum tenens arrangements, which provide Medicare funding for a “substitute” physical therapist to provide services when the “regular” care provider is absent, prevents delays and gaps in critical therapy care. The bipartisan legislation introduced by Reps. Bilirakis and Tonko, would extend these arrangements to all physical therapists participating in the Medicare program, not just those facing the most extreme forms of specialist scarcity. Expanding these arrangements will ensure that the growing national shortage of physical therapists and the burdens of COVID-19 don’t keep patients from receiving the therapy care they need to manage their condition and accelerate their recovery. The Prevent Interruptions in Physical Therapy Act also provides physical therapists with the flexibility to meet patient needs during the ongoing health emergency of COVID-19.

By expanding access to physical therapy, Congress will ensure continuity of care to the millions of Americans who rely on it to manage their long-term recovery and health, including those recuperating from “long-COVID.”

The Alliance for Physical Therapy Quality and Innovation commends Reps. Bilirakis and Tonko for their commitment to protecting Medicare patients’ ability to access the vital therapy care they need.