Physical Therapy Leaders Applaud Introduction of Bipartisan SAFE Act to Prevent Senior Falls

Introduced by Reps. Miller and Stansbury, the Stopping Addiction and Falls for the Elderly (SAFE) Act aims to increase access to preventative care and reduce dangerous falls among America’s Medicare patients

WASHINGTON – The Alliance for Physical Therapy Quality and Innovation (APTQI) today commended Representatives Carol Miller (R-WV) and Melanie Stansbury (D-NM) for introducing the bipartisan Stopping Addiction and Falls for the Elderly (SAFE) Act. This landmark legislation would allow Medicare beneficiaries to receive a no cost fall risk assessment from a physical or occupational therapist as part of their wellness benefit.

The SAFE Act addresses an urgent need for better falls prevention measures among Medicare beneficiaries. Falls are a significant public healthcare concern, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimating a rise to more than 52 million annual falls among older Americans by 2030, ensuing substantial healthcare costs and follow-up care for personal injuries.

“The SAFE Act is an investment in the health and well-being of our growing senior population, promising not only to enhance the quality of life for countless individuals but also to generate significant Medicare savings,” said Nikesh Patel, PT, Executive Director of APTQI. “By integrating physical and occupational therapy into Medicare wellness visits, we can provide our seniors with the proactive, preventative care they need to live safely and independently, in addition to reducing opioid prescriptions and subsequential overdose rates among older Americans.”

Physical therapy is an effective strategy for seniors to prevent falls, alleviate pain, and enhance their quality of life. Data show seniors who utilize physical therapy are less likely to visit the emergency room or be hospitalized; they are also less likely to use opioid-based drugs for pain.

“As a practicing physical therapist and practice owner in West Virginia, I can attest to the need of rural states to increase access to preventative services for seniors,” said Simon Hargus, PT, DPT, OCS, MBA, physical therapist, and owner of First Settlement Physical Therapy. “The right care at the right time saves lives and significantly reduces downstream cost. I applaud Representative Carol Miller for recognizing this and championing the SAFE Act, which is an important first step in expanding access to physical therapy services.”

“I thank Representative Stansbury for introducing this much-needed legislation,” said John P. Dennis, Jr., PT OCS, Albuquerque-based Multi-Site Clinic Director for ATI Physical Therapy. “Of the millions of seniors who fall ever year, tens of thousands die as a result. In Rep. Stansbury’s home state of New Mexico, that rate is 1.5 times higher than the national average and is particularly acute in more rural areas. This legislation and its emphasis on the preventative role of physical therapy marks a tremendous potential step toward reducing those numbers.”

APTQI urges lawmakers and public health advocates to support the SAFE Act, highlighting its potential to prevent injuries, save lives, and reduce healthcare spending. “APTQI is committed to working alongside Congress, healthcare providers, and the community to ensure the successful passage and implementation of this critical legislation,” added Patel.