Whether you’re suffering from chronic wanderlust, or you’re just looking for different weather, moving to a new state can be a refreshing change of pace. But while moving your belongings is a fairly simple process, if you want to take your PT job with you, you’ll need more than bubble wrap and tape. In fact, there’s actually a whole list of compliance requirements to consider before you can treat patients in another state—and despite what you may have heard, not every state allows for physical therapy license reciprocity.
Of course, moving is stressful enough, so we decided to help you out and make a PT moving checklist to help you get up and running in your new state.
1. Get a state license.
Not all PT licenses are created equal, and you must get the legal go-ahead from your new state before you whip out your gait belts and treatment tables. According to The Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT), there are three steps you should follow to get new state license:
1. Contact the state’s licensing authority.
The licensing authority will walk you through the most up-to-date state licensing requirements. Every state is a little bit different—some require fingerprints and credential evaluations, while others require a jurisprudence exam. Contact the licensing authority to make sure you have all the necessary documentation you need to get your license.
2. Apply for a state license.
Go to your new state’s PT licensing website and find the license application. Once you fill out the form and collect all the necessary paperwork, you’ll submit the application either online or by mail—and pay the associated fee. If you need help finding the state’s application portal, use this handy list—courtesy of Core Medical Group—that links to every state’s licensing website.
3. Transfer your NPTE score.
Finally, you must transfer your National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) score to the new state. (The FSBPT offers a score transfer service that runs with an $80 fee.) You may request this transfer electronically or print and mail in this paper form.
As much fun as it is to fill out state license applications—oodles of fun, I know—PTs and PTAs can skip the whole paper-logged process if their state (and the state they’re moving to) is part of the PT Compact.
So, what is the PT Compact? Well, it’s an agreement—a compact, you could say—among participating states that allows PTs in those states to practice across state lines without applying for additional licenses. The APTA, FSBPT, and Council of State Governments (CSG) lobbied for years to enact this program, and in 2018, PT compact licenses were finally born—in some states, that is. Only six states are actively issuing and accepting compact licenses at this time:
- North Dakota,
- Tennessee, and
Fifteen other states have adopted compact legislation, but they’re still picking through the weeds and have yet to issue or accept any compact licenses.
But before you bust into the nearest PT Compact state Kool-Aid man style, you have to actually get a compact license. To do so, you must satisfy some prerequisites (you have to be an active PT or PTA, for example), and pay a fee—the amount of which varies from state to state.
Keep your fingers crossed for a compact endgame that includes all 50 states, because full interstate licensure could have some sweet benefits for PTs nationwide.
2. Update your NPI information.
There are a few reasons to get a brand-new National Provider Identifier (NPI), but luckily, swappin’ states isn’t one of them. That’s right: your NPI will follow you to your new state of residence. That said, you do need to update the provider details associated with your NPI. There are three ways you can do this:
- Submit the information online;
- Print, fill out, and mail in this form (the address appears on page five); or
- Call the NPI Enumerator at 1-800-465-3203, request a form, and mail it in.
3. Update your TIN information.
Your tax identification number (TIN)—much like your NPI—needs an info refresh come moving time. (The IRS gets a little grumpy when it doesn’t have the right tax information.) Luckily, there are a handful of ways to notify the IRS of your move so you stay on its good side:
- Use your new address the next time you file taxes;
- Download, fill out, and mail in form 8822;
- Mail in a written statement that includes your full name, old address, new address, and social security number, ITIN, or EIN; or
- Call the IRS (or show up to the state’s IRS department) and provide verbal notification.
Updating the address attached to your TIN is the only TIN-related thing you need to complete after your move. You won’t need a new TIN unless you completely closed down your business and are starting fresh with a new one.
4. Get credentialed with payers.
Saddle up and get ready to reconquer the credentialing process, because insurance credentialing doesn’t always cross state borders.
You should decide which commercial payers you would like to contract with—and then identify which ones you actually can contract with—and start the credentialing process ASAP. Credentialing is only supposed to take around 90 days, but it’s a good idea to build 150 days of waiting time into your calendar.
Now, some commercial payer credentials do cross state borders, but those are few and far between. It’s always a good idea to call your payers and verify their moving policies.
And remember: it’s not just commercial payers you need to consider; Medicare rules might be national, but your enrollment records don’t transfer from state to state. Get in contact with your new local MAC in order to enroll with Medicare in your new state.
Additionally, each state has its own Medicaid program (with its own website) that, in turn, has its own rules and enrollment process. So, if you need help finding any Medicaid enrollment documents, check out our Medicaid enrollment link resource. It’ll get you right where you need to go.
For the last 15 years, the Council for Affordable Quality Healthcare (CAQH) has centered its mission on reducing credentialing woes—a.k.a mounds of paperwork. To do this, the council created a national credentialing database for providers and payers alike.
How does it work? Well, providers sign up to participate in the database and—after receiving CAQH approval—upload their credentialing information. Participating payers can then access that information and use it during the credentialing process.
Signing up with CAQH could save you a lot of credentialing headaches. After all, more than 50 commercial payers actively use this database—including big fish like Humana, Aetna, and Cigna. But “big fish” doesn’t necessarily mean “most relevant fish,” so it’s important to research your market and pinpoint which insurances are worth contracting with in your new area.
No buts about it: Credentialing is a taxing and arduous process. If you’re worried about potential pitfalls—or you just want tips about what to expect during the credentialing process—check out this blog post.
5. Check the state’s malpractice insurance requirements.
We here at WebPT are not legal experts, and we can’t provide legal advice on whether or not malpractice insurance is right for you. However, we can tell you that malpractice insurance requirements vary by state—and you should absolutely take a look at this list (in addition to doing your own research) to determine what will be required of you and your practice after your move.
If your new state does require malpractice insurance—and you aren’t working under an insured employer—sign up for coverage as soon as possible.
6. Learn the state’s direct access laws—and comply with them.
All 50 states—the US Virgin Islands and DC, too—technically allow patients to have direct access to a PT. However, the only across-the-board direct access provision is an initial evaluation, which means that in some states, therapists must satisfy additional requirements to see patients beyond the IE.
So, while you can immediately begin treating patients in, say, Arizona without any restriction or prerequisite, the same doesn’t hold true for Texas, Virginia, or any one of the 32 states that have limits to their direct access laws. In many states, treating patients without a referral could get you into some serious trouble.
To read up on your local (or soon-to-be local) direct access laws, check out the PT’s Guide to Direct Access Law in all 50 States.
7. Research the state’s continuing education requirements—and make a plan to stay on target.
At this point, you can probably guess what I’m going to say about continuing education units (CEUs). Yep—the requirements vary from state to state (for better or for worse). For example, some states require 40 contact hours, while others have no CEU requirements at all.
If you’re looking for an easy-to-digest overview of each state’s CEU requirements, take a gander at this blog post. It covers the specifics of each state’s requirements, from contact hours to renewal deadlines.
Phew! I don’t know about you, but I’d say our travel checklist was pretty exhaustive. But if you follow it to the “T,” you should be totally prepared to practice after your move. Comment below with any tips or tricks you’ve picked up over the years about getting ready to practice in a new state.