Direct Access

Senate Finance Committee Passes Direct Access Amendment Unanimously 

The Senate Finance Committee completed mark up of its health care reform legislation (America’s Healthy Future Act) this morning, which includes a provision on direct access to physical therapy care. On Tuesday, the committee passed an amendment by Sen Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) that would add a program to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Innovation Center to research direct access models for expanding access to physical therapy for Medicare beneficiaries in rural areas.

The Finance Committee mark requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to create an Innovation Center under CMS. The Innovation Center will be authorized to test, evaluate, and expand different payment structures and methodologies that aim to foster patient-centered care, improve quality, and slow the rate of Medicare cost growth.

This amendment would allow the Innovative Center to study the ability and impact of certain seniors and individuals with disabilities who reside in primary care health professional shortage areas that are located in a rural area to access the services of a physical therapist regardless of whether the individual is under the care of (or referred by) a physician or whether the services provided are under the supervision of a physician.

This amendment is a small victory toward achieving direct access across the board for all PTs, APTA says. The association will continue its long-term efforts to achieve direct access across all areas and practice settings.

The legislation and accepted amendments will be scored by the Congressional Budget Office over the weekend. A vote to report out this legislation is expected on October 6.

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