This past April, the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) New York Chapter embarked on our first in-person advocacy event since 2019, traveling to Albany, New York. Our mission was to advocate for legislation that would benefit all New Yorkers in need of physical therapy services. It is worth noting that all participants were volunteers and members of APTA New York, committed to advancing the profession and improving the lives of those we serve.
As grassroots advocates, we recognize the importance of our role in shaping policy and promoting positive change. Our efforts in Albany were focused on raising awareness of the critical role that physical therapy plays in healthcare and advocating for policies that support access to quality care for all. We firmly believe that our collective voice can make a difference in the lives of countless individuals and families across the state.
Members of APTA New York individually met with their respective New York State Senator and Assemblymember in their offices.
More specifically, the advocacy topics that were addressed were:
Did you know in New York you can see a physical therapist without a prescription from a medical doctor? However, there are some arbitrary restrictions like the physical therapist has to be practicing over 3 years. We are advocating that these restrictions be lifted.
Research has unequivocally demonstrated that the prompt intervention of a physical therapist can significantly expedite the recovery process of an injured individual. Moreover, seeking the services of a physical therapist as the first line of treatment can result in substantial cost savings.
A recent study examining the efficacy of physical therapy in treating low back pain revealed that the average total medical cost was $3,992 when physical therapy was the initial treatment modality. This figure is 19% lower than the total average costs incurred when injections were used as the first line of treatment ($4,905) and a staggering 75% lower than the total average costs incurred by the surgery-first group ($16,195). These findings underscore the importance of seeking the services of a physical therapist as the primary treatment option for individuals with musculoskeletal injuries.
PHYSICAL THERAPIST ASSISTANTS (PTA's) TREATING WORKER COMPENSATION PATIENTS
Physical Therapist Assistants (PTAs) are licensed healthcare professionals who have earned an associate's degree and passed the New York State Board exam, just like Physical Therapists. They possess the necessary qualifications and expertise to assist in the implementation of a patient's treatment plan.
It is important to note that New York is currently the only state in the country that prohibits PTAs from treating workers' compensation patients. This restriction has created workforce challenges and limited provider availability for those in need of care.
As advocates for the health and well-being of all individuals, we are committed to changing this law. By doing so, we can improve workforce issues and ensure that Workers' Compensation patients have access to the highest quality care possible. Our goal is to create a more equitable and just healthcare system for all.
Did you know that your co-payment for physical therapy is considered a specialist payment? This means that it is higher than the co-payment for a primary care provider. We are advocating for New York state to reclassify physical therapist copays to be the same as primary care providers, which would result in a lower co-payment for patients. This change makes sense because, unlike a cardiologist specialist who is typically seen once a year, patients may see their physical therapist twice a week for several months. Over time, this can become cost-prohibitive for many individuals, causing them to forego necessary services.
Furthermore, this high cost may lead patients to attempt to manage their symptoms on their own, potentially resulting in the misuse of opioids and contributing to the opioid crisis. Recent studies have shown that individuals with low back pain who receive physical therapy have reduced rates of opioid use. Physical therapy is a non-pharmacological treatment option that can be used to help individuals manage pain and avoid the use of opioids.
By reclassifying physical therapists as primary care providers, patients would have greater access to this valuable service, ultimately leading to better health outcomes and reduced healthcare costs. It is time for New York State to recognize the importance of physical therapy and take action to make it more accessible to those who need it.
Advocacy plays a crucial role in advancing the Physical Therapy profession. It enables the passage of laws that benefit both Physical Therapists and, more importantly, the patients who rely on their services. Without the active participation of Physical Therapists in advocating for these laws, progress would be stymied. Therefore, it is imperative that we speak up and make our voices heard.
We extend our heartfelt gratitude to all the patients who have supported Marko Physical Therapy's advocacy efforts. Your unwavering support has been instrumental in our success. We remain committed to advocating for the rights of Physical Therapists and ensuring that patients receive the highest quality care possible.
In conclusion, our recent advocacy event in Albany was a significant step forward in our ongoing efforts to promote the value of physical therapy and improve access to care for all New Yorkers. We remain committed to our mission and look forward to continuing our work as advocates for the profession and the patients we serve.
Dr. Theresa Marko, PT, DPT, MSPT, CEIS, is a physical therapist & owner at Marko Physical Therapy, PLLC.
Dr. Marko specializes in orthopedics, as well as adolescent injuries and pediatric issues. If you would like to reach out to her you can by email or phone.