Hard-Fought Victories and Other Accomplishments Mark the Closing of 2018 for APTA

Two times each year, APTA hosts an hour-long virtual component leadership meeting to provide updates about federal and state government affairs, payment issues, and other activity highlights in the recent past or the near future. In November, I listened to the latest recording on this update – my first one as your newly elected president elect.

We achieved a lot in 2018! Here are some of the victories and accomplishments that APTA staff and President Sharon Dunn talked about during the meeting, some of which you may already know about:

Legislative and Payment Advocacy Victories

  • Congress passed a permanent fix to the hard cap on Medicare services in February 2018 after a 21-year advocacy effort. (The law took effect retroactively to January 1, 2018.) No more temporary requests for patches in January (there have been 17 over the past 21 years)! An unfortunate last-minute addition to the bill was a PTA pay differential of 85 percent beginning in 2022, which APTA strongly opposed and is working to change before the effective date.
  • Congress also voted to include PTAs as authorized providers in the TRICARE system. On December 18, the Department of Defense published draft rules so by PTAs should be able to get paid to provide treatment to TRICARE patients by early 2020 at the latest.
  • The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will eliminate mandatory Functional Limitations Reporting as of January 1, 2019.
  • Legislation that protects PTs and other health care providers who travel across state lines with a sports team became law, after several years of effort. The law provides added legal protections for sports medicine professionals when they’re traveling with professional, high school, college, or national sports teams by extending the provider’s “home state” professional liability insurance to any other state the team may visit. This cooperative effort also involved the National Athletic Trainers’ Association and the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons. We are #bettertogether!
  • Physical therapists who are ABPTS Board Certified Electrophysiological Clinical Specialists (ECS) are Medicare approved for reimbursement for the performance of nerve conduction velocity and electromyography studies, and for sensory-evoked potentials studies when permitted by state law.
  • The US Department of Veterans Affairs will permit reimbursement for physical therapy services provided via telehealth or virtual technology, regardless of where the provider or patient is located.
  • CMS and the Joint Commission agreed that pulse oximetry in the home does NOT require a physician’s order.
  • The Physical Therapy Licensure Compact law has passed in 21 states and six are issuing license privileges. An additional 8-10 states are expected to introduce licensure compact legislation in 2019. (Washington will probably begin issuing compact privileges in a few months.)
  • Looking forward in 2019: Efforts to support Medicare Advantage plans to include telehealth as part of a basic benefit package will continue.
  • The APTA PT Outcomes Registry will meet the requirements for approval by Medicare for the Qualified Clinical Data Registry status reports. Physical therapists will be able to use this registry to meet one of the merit-based incentive reporting requirements, eliminating some duplicative documentation demands.

More Good News

  • #Choose PT – our national public relations effort focused on the opioid crisis – continues to have an impact. APTA introduced a second PSA. They also held an online panel discussion with seven perspectives including a patient, a PT, a physician and others. They conducted a one-day September media tour that resulted in 463 airings and reached nearly 109 million people!
  • APTA purchased the land on which our new APTA headquarters building will be constructed. More details about building design and a ground breaking to come.
  • The American Society of Association Executives awarded a Power of A Gold Award to the APTA, AOTA and ASHA for our cooperative, successful effort in the permanent elimination of the Medicare therapy cap.
  • APTA received the Alexandria (VA) Chamber of Commerce Best in Business Award.
  • The APTA Minority Scholarship fund exceeded $1 million in scholarship distributions.
  • There is a new Council on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Wellness.
  • 16 clinical practice guidelines have been published with content from the sections and academies. 44 more are in the works

Anniversary Celebrations

  • Physical Therapist Assistants will celebrate their 50th anniversary in 2019; the first PTAs graduated from PTA programs in 1969. There will be celebrations throughout the year, including an event at CSM. Various chapters are participating in fitness-based PTA10Ks (including Washington) as a way to promote PTA membership in APTA with the goal of increasing it to 10,000 during this anniversary year. It’s currently just below 9,000.
  • The APTA will celebrate our 100th (centennial) anniversary in 2021 with the theme “connect, celebrate, inspire.” Stay tuned for more updates as we move forward to toast this magnificent milestone.

I hope you feel as energized by all of these accomplishments as I do. Many of you participated directly in helping to achieve these victories. Our hard work is paying off!

Meryl Gersh
PTWA President-Elect
PTWA Professional Enhancement Panel Director