The APTA and Health Care Reform

therapy reform

Many healthcare workers are anxious about the upcoming changes (whatever they turn out to be) in the industry. Will the changes create more therapist jobs or fewer jobs; will pay scales change; could a shift in focus improve or worsen the demand for care, particularly in rehabilitation therapy; will more hospitals look to travel therapists for staffing?

As the health care debate continues to heat up, much of the focus is on primary care physicians and other physician specialties, but the American Physical Therapy Association is working hard to ensure that physical therapy stays well in the debate.  The APTA staged a virtual health care reform rally on June 24 and continues to encourage physical therapists and their patients to contact their congressmen to make sure that their opinions and needs are not ignored.

The APTA outlines its positions very specifically on its website, summarizing them in major principles:

1. Access to care

In this section, the APTA explains that patients should have direct access to physical therapists, without having to wait for a referral.  Health care reform should also ensure that all individuals have access to health care, regardless of preexisting or congenital conditions and should provide coverage for preventative and restorative care that could reduce long-term disabilities, and in turn, lower future medical costs.

2. Quality of Care

The APTA says that it “opposes any policy that places arbitrary limits on physical therapy services.”  It goes on to say that “professional practitioners should be involved in the development of practice parameters and guidelines specific to their scope of practice” and that physical therapists alone should be responsible for the decisions regarding a patient’s treatment or discharge from treatment and should be held accountable for their decisions through peer review.

3. Cost Containment and Payment

The APTA maintains that the costs of health care services should be reasonable and equitable, without encouraging providers to withhold services.  To help make sure that payment is appropriate, the APTA suggests that health care professionals help to develop the standard and payment rates for their discipline and that payment and billing should only occur when services are provided by a licensed professional and when documentation exists, in accordance with APTA guidelines, as to the need for such services.

4. State Licensure

Physical therapists are required to have a graduate degree and to be licensed in their state of practice.  The APTA believes that licensure and regulation responsibilities should remain with the state and not with any federal or regional organization.   It also believes that “there should be no credentialing of institutions that would override or eliminate the requirements of individual practitioner license laws.”

For a more comprehensive look at how health care reform will affect physical therapists, see APTA’s “Role of Physical Therapy in Health Care Reform”.