Jan 29, 2015
Senate to Reconsider Medicare Reimbursement

Since 2005, government rules have prevented Medicare from paying for physician-supervised treatment unless provided by a physical therapist, occupational therapist, or speech and language pathologist. As a result, athletic trainers, kinesiotherapists, and other allied health professionals have been left out of the Medicare picture. Now, a Senate bill aims to change those rules, to the benefit of athletic trainers and Medicare beneficiaries alike.

The bill, introduced in September by Sen. Craig Thomas (R, Wyo.), is called the Access to Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Services Improvement Act of 2006 (S. 3963). It would change rules enacted by the government’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, allowing Medicare reimbursement for doctor-recommended therapy provided by certified athletic trainers and certain other professionals.

“This crucial piece of legislation ensures that the maximum number of qualified therapy professionals are available to provide Medicare beneficiaries with the quality care they need and deserve,” Chuck Kimmel, ATC, President of the NATA, said in a statement. “We believe that physicians are best qualified to determine the type of therapy treatments prescribed and to choose the best qualified professionals to deliver those services.”

The bill’s supporters note that in addition to improving the quality of care for Medicare users, the policy benefits taxpayers. Recent reports from the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission and the General Accounting Office indicate that physical medicine and rehabilitation services provided in a physician’s office (such as those performed by athletic trainers) are more cost effective than comparable services provided in other medical settings, such as skilled nursing facilities.

The Senate Committee on Finance received the bill in late September and has not yet scheduled a vote. The NATA, the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, and many other professional groups have announced their support and have formed an ad hoc coalition to advocate for the bill’s passage.

To visit the coalition online, go to: www.coalitiontopreservepatientaccess.org.

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