Washington, D.C. — This week, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) and Congresswoman Debbie Lesko (AZ-08), introduced the bipartisan Enabling More of the Physical and Occupational Workforce to Engage in Rehabilitation (EMPOWER) Act to increase Medicare access to physical and occupational therapy.
“Physical and occupational therapy are important parts of recovery for thousands of Medicare beneficiaries in New Hampshire and across the country – we must ensure these patients can access and afford the quality care they need,” said Kuster. “I am proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation today to make it easier for Medicare beneficiaries in rural and medically underserved areas to recover, heal, and thrive.”
“Physical and occupational therapy services are an important part of treatment options for a variety of conditions. Americans deserve a health care system that works efficiently and effectively for them and gives them access to the treatments that they need,” said Congresswoman Lesko. “I’m grateful for the bipartisan coalition that is working together to improve our constituents’ access to these critical services.”
Medicare Part B currently requires that licensed physical therapy assistants (PTA) and occupational therapy assistants (OTA) only see patients with their licensed physical therapist or occupational therapist supervisors physically on-site in the private practice setting. PTAs and OTAs are licensed or certified in all U.S. jurisdictions and are regulated by their state’s licensure board.
Yet, despite PTAs and OTAs in private practice across other jurisdictions having the ability to practice under “general supervision,” Medicare still requires “direct supervision” for payment in this setting. This requirement contradicts state discretion in setting scope-of-practice policy and undermines access to physical therapy services for individuals in rural and underserved areas. This bill matches PTA and OTA supervision requirements for Medicare Part B patients to the state laws.