Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I don't like Ed Towns

Oppose Legislation HR 1137 That Will Weaken Qualification Standards for Personnel Providing Physical Therapy Services in Physician Offices

On Monday, February 23, Congressman Edolphus “Ed” Towns (D-NY) introduced HR 1137. This legislation would overturn the current Medicare “incident-to” rule and recognize athletic trainers as covered providers under Medicare. Please contact your Member of Congress today and ask him/her to OPPOSE this legislation!
APTA strongly opposes this legislation (HR 1137) and supports Medicare’s ability to require qualification standards for therapy services provided “incident to” a physician’s professional services. It is the position of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) that physical therapists are the qualified professionals who provide physical therapy examinations, evaluations, diagnoses, prognoses, and interventions. Interventions should be represented and reimbursed as physical therapy only when performed by a physical therapist or by a physical therapist assistant under the direction and supervision of a physical therapist.
In November 2004, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) included provisions in the final rule for the 2005 Medicare physician fee schedule that established qualifications and clinical preparation standards for individuals who provide physical therapy services “incident to” a physician’s professional services. These provisions implement requirements adopted by Congress in 1997 to protect patient safety, ensure the appropriate use of Medicare resources, and guarantee the delivery of physical therapy services by qualified physical therapists. Opponents of these regulations were unsuccessful in their attempts to have CMS rescind the rule implemented in May 2005. These organizations also filed a federal lawsuit attempting to force their withdrawal, and a US Court of Appeals upheld a district court decision dismissing the litigation.
Talking Points
Patient Safety - HR 1137 jeopardizes the health, safety and welfare of Medicare beneficiaries by allowing non-qualified individuals to provide therapy services. The “incident to” regulations standardize existing Medicare requirements that physical therapy services must be delivered by qualified personnel in all outpatient settings. There is no evidence that these standards have restricted the delivery of physical therapy in physician offices. Without enforcement of appropriate qualification standards, it would be impossible to ensure that Medicare beneficiaries receive and the Medicare program pays for an appropriate level of safe and effective care delivered by an individual qualified to provide physical therapy.
Cost-effectiveness – HR 1137 is fiscally irresponsible and will cost taxpayers due to inappropriate billing of therapy services by non-qualified individuals. In a report issued in May 2006, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Health and Human Services found that 91% of physical therapy services billed by physicians under the old “incident to” rules in the first 6 months of 2002 failed to meet program requirements, resulting in improper Medicare payments of $136 million. The Inspector General found that the total payments for physical therapy claims from physicians skyrocketed from $353 million in 2002 to $509 million in 2004, and that the number of physicians billing the program for more than $1 million in physical therapy more than doubled in that two-year period.
This follows a report done in 1994 by the OIG that estimated that more than $47 million in unnecessary therapy services were delivered in physician offices under the old “incident to” rules. As a result of the 1994 report, Congress passed the Outpatient Physical Therapy Standards Act of 1997 as part of the Balanced Budget Act. This legislation established a standard for physical therapy delivered in a physician’s office consistent with that in all other outpatient settings, and the regulations promulgated by CMS in 2004 implement these standards in keeping with the intent of Congress.
Quality Care – HR 1137 dilutes the quality of care for Medicare beneficiaries by allowing non-qualified individuals to deliver therapy services. Medicare beneficiaries deserve a consistent standard of care that ensures that providers who deliver these services have attained the level of education and qualification necessary to provide them safely and effectively. Without appropriate personnel standards for individuals delivering highly skilled and recognized Medicare services such as physical therapy, the standard of quality is jeopardized.
What You Can Do
Contact your House Representative and ask them to OPPOSE HR 1137 TODAY!
CALL: Contact your House Representative by calling by calling the Capitol switchboard at 202/224-3121. Remember to ask to speak with the Health Legislative Assistant and ask your House Representative to OPPOSE HR 1137.
EMAIL: Visit www.apta.org/advocacy and click on the Legislative Action Center to send an email to your House Representative.

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