Lawmakers Urge HHS to Protect Rural Therapy Providers from Harmful Cuts

Recognizing the importance of maintaining patient access to therapy services in rural and underserved communities, a bipartisan group of lawmakers recently sent a letter to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra urging the agency to exempt rural areas from pending Medicare cuts to services provided by physical and occupational therapy assistants.

The letter comes as therapy assistants in rural areas face a significant 15% Medicare payment reduction scheduled to take effect in 2022. Given the significant – and growing – rural access disparities that have been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, now is not the time to further undermine patient access to rural healthcare services.

As the lawmakers note, “Access to medical care is already dwindling in rural localities. Physical therapists, occupational therapists, and their assistants play a crucial role in bridging these gaps in access to care. But the payment reduction puts at risk the financial viability of physical and occupational therapy businesses in rural and underserved areas. Absent action by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the therapy assistant payment reduction will exacerbate the growing problem of limited access to medical care throughout much of rural America.”

After highlighting the harmful implications of the scheduled cuts, the letter urges the agency to make several regulatory changes to support small therapy businesses and the patients they serve.

APTQI applauds Representatives Brian Higgins (D-NY), Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO), Paul Tonko (D-NY), Ann McLane Kuster (D-NH), and John Joyce (R-PA) for championing this important issue – and we urge CMS to take necessary steps to preserve patient access to critical therapy services.

To read more about the suggested policy updates proposed by lawmakers, click here.