During the first half of this year, many practices found themselves making the difficult decision to furlough employees—or lay them off completely. Fortunately, the physical therapy market has bounced back somewhat, but there are still many physical therapists waiting to go back to work—and many practices that have yet to open their doors since March. As a result, a number of PTs are still out of work and on the hunt for alternatives to a permanent position.
As a physical therapy professional, you’ve acquired years of education and training. You’ve kept up with continuing education and are active within your professional community.
PTs commonly perform services that are similar to one another. To make the billing process a bit easier, they can form “edit pairs” for certain Medicare services.
Rehab therapy professionals have a lot to keep track of when initiating patient treatment—everything from verifying patient insurance information to building rapport with patients. And that’s in addition to ensuring that if a patient comes in via a physician—or has an insurance plan that requires the oversight of an MD—you’ve covered all things paperwork and signatures.
Every year near the end of July, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) releases a document with all of the proposed policy changes that it wants to implement. And this year, the proposed rule is a roller coaster for rehab therapists.
Prior to the pandemic, telehealth was slowly gaining traction as a viable mode of service delivery for OTs, PTs, and SLPs. Providers and patients were beginning to appreciate its benefits (especially for patients in rural areas and pediatric patients living on federal land) but adoption was scattered. Some states, such as Georgia, explicitly authorized telehealth in their rehab therapy state practice acts, while others authorized rehab therapy telehealth via a separate, related statute.
In these tumultuous times, it is of the utmost importance that we prioritize the safety of our fellow healthcare workers and patients. That is why many providers are seriously considering changing their business model and reallocating resources to telehealth—especially considering that CMS is beginning to reimburse PTs and OTs for certain telehealth services.
Some states—such as Louisiana and Ohio—had already authorized telehealth as a mode of service delivery for physical therapists. A few state Medicaid programs, such as Minnesota, reimbursed for OT and SLP telehealth services. Of course, Medicare did not authorize rehabilitation providers to deliver services virtually
On Thursday, April 30, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services officially made physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech-language pathologists eligible to deliver—and receive reimbursement for—telehealth services for the remainder of the public health emergency period. This change—along with all other temporary provisions included in the full CMS bulletin—is retroactive to March 1, 2020.
Who’s ready for some good news? According to reports from the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has lifted the remaining restrictive NCCI changes the entity implemented this past January.
As our nation unites to fight the spread of COVID-19, many rehab therapy practices have reduced or eliminated in-person treatment sessions. Unfortunately, PTs, OTs, and SLPs aren’t universally authorized to provide telehealth services. Well, there’s never been a better time to change that—starting with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).