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Bilirakis and Tonko Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Improve Patient Access to Physical Therapy

March 9, 2021
Press Release

Bilirakis and Tonko Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Improve Patient Access to Physical Therapy


Washington, D.C.- Earlier today Representatives Gus Bilirakis and Paul Tonko reintroduced the Prevent Interruptions in Physical Therapy Act.  This key legislation builds upon a provision which was signed into law as part of the 21st Century Cures Act to give physical therapists in rural, medically underserved, and health professional shortage areas to the ability to use locum tenens arrangements to ensure their patients continue to receive quality care during a temporary provider absence (e.g. illness, family leave, or continued professional education). The Bilirakis-Tonko legislation extends this same arrangement to all physical therapists in the outpatient setting participating in the Medicare program.  This represents a significant benefit for Medicare patients, many of whom already face difficulty finding a qualified physical therapist in parts of the country due to a current shortage in the field.  When they do begin physical therapy treatment, they don’t want that care interrupted due to a temporary provider absence.  


We’ve seen countless examples throughout the pandemic of how important it is for our healthcare providers to have greater flexibility to meet patient needs,” said Congressman Bilirakis.  Physical therapy is a vital component of our healthcare system, and these providers must also have the flexibility to ensure access to quality care.  This legislation will enable them to better achieve that goal.”     


For the many patients, especially for seniors accessing physical therapy services, interruptions in care can be detrimental to their long-term recovery and health, especially for those in historically underserved communities,” Congressman Tonko said.Our legislation provides a targeted response to this challenge by ensuring continuity of care, all while benefiting the provider as well as the patient. I am proud to stand with my colleague, Representative Bilirakis to push to turn this commonsense, compassionate legislation into law.”


Physical therapists, small businesses in therapy, and patients continue to struggle as we recover from the impact of the COVID pandemic. Providing physical therapists support and flexibility to ensure that patient care is not interrupted is critical now more than ever,” said APTA President Sharon L. Dunn, PT, PhD. “APTA applauds the introduction of The Prevent Interruptions in Physical Therapy Act, bipartisan common-sense legislation that expands locum tenens under Medicare for outpatient physical therapists in all geographic regions to ensure continuous care for their patients and save health care dollars.”


"Occasionally, a physical therapist must be away from their outpatient clinic for short periods for medical, professional or family reasons. When this happens, they need to be able to bring in a licensed and qualified physical therapist to ensure their patients’ care can continue without interruption,” explained Mike Horsfield, PT, MBA, Private Practice Section of APTA President.  “PPS thanks Representatives Bilirakis and Tonko for introducing this important bipartisan legislation to ensure that seniors retain continued access to highly skilled care by a qualified physical therapist--regardless of where they live."