A newly introduced Senate bill, the Prevent Interruptions in Physical Therapy Act (HR 3426/S.2818), would allow physical therapists in private practice to provide Medicare patients continuity of care in the absence of a physical therapist. The legislation would essentially expand so-called “locum tenens” arrangements to include physical therapists. Locum tenens provisions allow health care providers to bring in another licensed professional to treat Medicare patients and bill Medicare through the practice provider number.
This arrangement can be enacted during temporary absences due to pregnancy, illness, vacation, or continuing medical education. Presently, the law only extends locum tenens to doctors of medicine, osteopathy, dental surgery, podiatric medicine, optometry, and chiropractic, which means physical therapists in private practice may be at risk for gaps in patient care or will have to avoid absences altogether.
The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) and its Private Practice Section (PPS) collaborated on lobbying for the legislation, which was introduced by Senators Chuck Grassley (IA) and Bob Casey (PA). PPS President Tom Di Angelis, PT, DPT, says, “This legislation seeks to eliminate an unnecessary limitation on our ability to practice and provide excellent continuous care. We commend Senators Grassley and Casey for taking an important step to ensure a patient’s access to uninterrupted physical therapy.”
An APTA news release notes the locum tenens legislation has continued to gain awareness and co-sponsorship in the House, and the group will now advocate for support in the Senate. For additional information regarding this issue, visit www.apta.org/FederalIssues/LocumTenens.