PTAs Tell Congress: Protect Our Patients and the Physical Therapy Profession
Under the direction and supervision of a physical therapist, physical and occupational therapy assistants (PTAs and OTAs) provide essential services to individuals in need of physical therapy services by helping patients rehabilitate and regain bodily function, manage pain, prevent injury, and improve mobility, flexibility, and balance.
However, Medicare cuts are jeopardizing this critical piece of the therapy profession with a severe, 15% cut to services provided by PTAs and OTAs.
This cut, on top of a series of other Medicare cuts in recent years, will only further restrict the ability of the profession to meet patients’ pain management and recovery needs using the safest, most cost-effective care path.
We recently spoke with Lorenzo Arroyo, a PTA and the Assistant Director of Operations at Border Therapy Services, an Alliance Physical Therapy Partner, in El Paso, TX, about the importance of PTAs and the impact of these distressing cuts:
We asked Lorenzo:
- What does it mean to be a physical therapy assistant? (0:12)
- How is your work different from a physical therapist? (0:42)
- Can you share your thoughts and tell me a story about how physical therapy assistants make a difference in the lives of your patients? (1:13)
- A 15% Medicare cut to PTA and OTA services went into effect on January 1st. What impact has this had on your practice? (2:10)
- Have you heard about these Medicare cuts from others in your practice or in the field? (3:11)
- How do these cuts impact staffing and patient assignments within your practice? (3:59)
- When you hear about payment cuts from Washington, what does it generally mean for your practice and your patients? (4:37)
- If people can’t access physical therapy, what alternative care options do these patients have in your community? What risks are they facing? (5:18)
- When you talk to future PTs and PTAs about the business side of this field, how do Medicare cuts play into those conversations? (6:09)
If these Medicare cuts remain in place, patients access to care will be severely compromised. Fortunately, Representatives Bobby Rush (D-IL) and Jason Smith (R-MO) introduced the Stabilizing Medicare Access to Rehabilitation and Therapy (SMART) Act (H.R. 5536) to mitigate these cuts and protect Medicare beneficiaries’ access to care, particularly in rural markets like El Paso.
If passed, the SMART Act would suspend the therapist assistant cut for 2022 and protect rural and underserved communities from the reduction permanently. It would also finally allow PTAs to practice as their state license permits in regard to assistant supervision.