APTQI Applauds Introduction of S. 970 in the U.S. Senate to Address Physical Therapist Professional Shortage
Bipartisan bill would enable physical therapists to participate in the National Health Service Corps student loan repayment program
Washington, D.C. –– Today the Alliance for Physical Therapy Quality and Innovation (APTQI) commended a bipartisan trio of Senators for introducing a bill to provide for the participation of physical therapists in the National Health Service Corps. The bill, filed in previous sessions as the Physical Therapist Workforce and Patient Access Act, is designed to address the significant shortage of physical therapists and physical therapy professionals relative to high demand for PT services by allowing physical therapists to participate in the National Health Service Corps student loan repayment program.
The bipartisan bill is sponsored by Senators Angus King (I-ME), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Roger Wicker (R-MS).
“We applaud the bipartisan support for expanding access to much-needed physical therapy services to millions more Americans across the country—particularly in rural and high-need areas,” said Nikesh Patel, PT, DPT, Executive Director of APTQI. “We thank Senators King, Tester, and Wicker for their leadership in helping address the serious shortage of physical therapy professionals at a time when demand for PT services is expected to grow even faster in the coming years.”
Estimates show that by 2025, an additional 27,000 PTs will be needed to meet demand for safe, professional, and patient-preferred physical therapy services. This problem is particularly acute in rural areas because many physical therapists are concentrated in major metropolitan areas. Many community-based clinics are eager to invest in underserved communities if they had the resources to recruit more PTs and expand care. S. 970 introduced today would expand access to care in rural and high-need areas by incentivizing more medical professionals to enter the specialty.
The National Health Service Corps works to alleviate shortages of medical professionals around the United States by offering student loan relief to medical professionals who commit to serve in a medically underserved or designated health care professional shortage area. Participants would be eligible to receive up to $50,000 towards their educational costs if they commit to working in a medically underserved or designated health care professional shortage area. Participants would also be eligible to extend their service to five years to receive up to $100,000 in student loan repayments.
Unfortunately, under current law, the NHSC loan repayment program does not allow physical to participate, despite the fact that PTs can be vital in NHSC-approved sites like Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs), private practices, and outpatient facilities. This makes it difficult for physical therapists to deliver services and open much needed community-based PT centers in critically underserved markets. Just as Congress is looking to expand the addiction treatment workforce, helping physical therapists enter the profession is a vital way for helping communities address the nation’s over reliance on powerful opioids. Enacting bipartisan legislation to address this issue is a crucial first step towards ensuring all Americans, regardless of geographic location, are able to access quality physical therapy services.
“S. 970 would go a long way in helping physical therapists invest in underserved communities by ensuring PT centers would have access to the professionals they need to properly serve underserved communities,” added Mr. Patel. “We urge the Senate to pass this bipartisan legislation and look forward to House introduction of this bill in the near future.”
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