Poll: Senior Voters Value Physical and Occupational Therapy, Fear Proposed Medicare Payment Cuts Will Reduce Access to Care

Eight in ten respondents favor candidates who support protecting physical and occupational therapists from Medicare payment cuts

Washington, DC – Nine out of ten Americans over the age of 65 say physical and occupational therapy is vital to their quality of life, according to a recent Morning Consult survey of senior voters. Nearly the same number (88%) also expressed concerns that proposed Medicare payment cuts may eliminate alternatives for therapy outside of nursing homes – and eliminate seniors’ ability to “age in place.”

Eighty percent of seniors surveyed say they will take their concerns to the polls – voting for candidates in future elections who support protecting physical and occupational therapists from Medicare payment cuts.

Results of the online poll of 1,005 senior voters over the age of 65, conducted on behalf of the Alliance for Physical Therapy Quality and Innovation (APTQI) between September 21 –27, 2022, found that the overwhelming majority of seniors place a premium on their care provided by physical and occupational therapists. Nine in ten place strong value on their physical therapy and eight in ten feel the same about their occupational therapy.

Eighty percent of the senior respondents said physical and occupational therapists are especially effective at managing age-related issues. Of the seniors surveyed, nine out of ten credit physical therapists and eight out of ten credit occupational therapists with their:

  • Improved balance, preventing injuries and falls
  • Recovery from an injury
  • Ability to “age in place”

The survey, illustrating seniors’ considerable reliance on physical and occupational therapy, was released following a July 2022 announcement by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) of plans to implement deep, across-the-board payment cuts to physical, occupational, and speech therapy as part of the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (MPFS) Proposed Rule for CY2023.

APTQI has expressed opposition to Medicare’s proposed cuts and endorsed Representatives Ami Bera and Larry Bucshon’s introduction of the bipartisan H.R. 8800, The Supporting Medicare Providers Act of 2022, which would significantly alleviate the financial strain placed on clinicians by the cuts found in the proposed rule. On September 30, APTQI joined a coalition of 100 other groups, representing more than one million physicians and non-physician health care clinicians, in signing a letter praising Reps. Bera and Bucshon and applauding their introduction of H.R. 8800.

The joint letter calls H.R. 8800, “an essential step toward providing clinicians with financial stability and ensuring patients have access to critical services our members provide.”

Nikesh Patel, PT, Executive Director of APTQI, underscored that message. “Supporting clinicians is the difference between reliable access to care for all who rely on physical, occupational, and speech therapy or a destabilized, increasingly inequitable health system,” added Patel.

Seniors surveyed say they are extremely concerned about the potential consequences of sweeping Medicare payment cuts, fearing:

  • patients will be forced into assisted living or nursing homes without therapies to assist with activities of daily living (88%);
  • rural areas will be hardest hit (88%); and/or
  • more patients will be dependent on opioids without the safe alternatives to pain management provided by physical and occupational therapists (87%).

As opposed to rolling back access to physical and occupational therapy, senior voters support expanding access. Two-thirds of seniors surveyed say they would like the option to access their physical therapist when they are unable to go into the office for an in-person appointment. And three out of five say the same for their occupational therapist. Senior voters also believe expanding access to advanced technology would make it easier to: access their physical and occupational therapists (75%), track and log pain or symptoms (72%), and receive reminders for exercises (75%).

Finally, these same voters said that stabilizing funding for physical and occupational therapists would increase senior voter favorability of the Biden Administration (67%) and of Medicare (86%).

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