New Bills Include PTs in Locum Tenens

What do chiropractors, osteopaths, and podiatrists have in common? Locum tenens applies to all of them, and thanks to recent companion bills, physical therapists soon might experience the benefits of this law as well. Currently, private practice PTs simply must avoid absences—or “risk gaps”—in patient care. According to this PT in Motion news release, though, the Prevent Interruptions in Physical Therapy Act, which consists of two identical bills (H.R. 556 for the House of Representatives and S.313 for the Senate), would allow a PT to “bring in another licensed provider to treat Medicare patients and bill Medicare through the practice provider number” during the PT’s temporary absence for illness, pregnancy, vacation, or continuing medical education. Learn more about locum tenens here.

HHS Pushes Medicare to Pay for Quality, not Quantity

The Obama administration has big changes on the horizon for Medicare. According to a Modern Healthcare article, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in an effort to reduce costs and improve care, has unveiled a plan that will transition Medicare payment models from volume-based to value-based. Historically, Medicare has relied on a fee-for-service reimbursement model. However, the HHS plan aims to have “30% of payments for traditional Medicare benefits…tied to alternative payment models such as accountable care organizations by the end of 2016” and “50% by the end of 2018.” Furthermore, HHS wants Medicare to make 85% of its hospital payments through programs like “the Hospital Value-Based Purchasing Program or the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program by the end of 2016” and 90% by 2018. These changes only emphasize the crucial role outcomes will play in the coming years.

Physical Therapy Self-Referral Exception is Back—Back Again

The APTA may have another reason to celebrate in 2016. According to an announcement from the organization, President Barack Obama’s 2016 budget includes a proposal to eliminate existing “loopholes in the Stark law” that allow provider referral to “most in-office ancillary services (IOAS) under Medicare.” The APTA has long advocated for the elimination of these loopholes. Should Congress approve this cost-savings proposal, physicians will no longer be able to “refer patients for certain services—including physical therapy—to a business that has a financial relationship with the referring provider.” The budget still has a long way to go before approval—and previous budgets have included similar proposals that failed to pass—but the future is promising. Be on the lookout for more information from the APTA as it becomes available. To read more, click here.  

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