Medicare locum tenens update

As you know from our previous communications, PTPN is working toward the passage of HR 556, the Prevent Interruptions to Physical Therapy Act (a.k.a., locum tenens). Today we are reporting on its progress, and what you can do to help.

HR 556 would include physical therapists in the list of medical professionals that can utilize and get paid for locum tenens (relief therapists) under Medicare. Current law only allows physicians and a few other health professionals to use other licensed professionals in their practices when the owner needs to be absent for a short time due to illness, pregnancy, professional development, jury duty, and the like. We have long maintained that adding PTs to the list of locum tenens providers carries no additional cost to the Medicare program because these patients are already accounted for in the system and not an authorization of new treatment. HR 556 currently only allows for PT locum tenens in medically underserved sreas and specific rural areas. However, this is not a rural versus urban issue; instead, the crux of the matter is the size of the practice. Therefore, we have been working with the sponsors to challenge the CBO’s cost estimate.

To do that, PPS/APTA conducted a survey to shed light on the need for locum tenens in all communities, not just in rural areas. The survey revealed that a policy which limits utilization to rural and medically underserved areas would not solve the problem for the majority of therapists. Nearly 70% of physical therapy clinics reported being located in urban or suburban areas, meaning more than two-thirds of the clinics would not be able to use locum tenens under the current bill. Moreover, more than 76% of physical therapy practices have only one or two clinic locations, with 80 to 90% having five or fewer physical therapists providing care per practice location. Therefore, Rep. Bilirakis has proposed that instead of focusing on location, HR 556 apply to practices with seven or fewer Medicare-enrolled physical therapists per clinic location.

What can you do? The House Energy and Commerce Committee is engaged in the issue and is working to move the bill forward. The bills (H.R.556/S.313) currently have 98 House and 29 Senate cosponsors. We want to thank those cosponsors or urge new ones. And if your Representative is on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, please urge them to support Rep. Bilirakis’ change to the bill (so that’s one additional step). You can do that by clicking here to send an email.

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