The Dangers of PTA cuts in New York
Worldwide, an estimated 385,000 babies are born each day. Every child grows up with dreams of going into a career such as an astronaut, doctor, ballerina, a firefighter, or a construction worker. The possibilities are endless and as children grow into teens and eventually adults, their career choice is solidified. For many, that path has changed over the years, but for some the choice to help and heal others has been an easy one.
According to data collected by the Federation of State Board of Physical Therapy there are 312,716 licensed physical therapists and 127,750 licensed physical therapist assistants in the United States. Physical therapists and therapist assistants are agents of healing and relief for those struggling with chronic pain due to injury, illness, or accident that might require regular treatment. All across New York City, physical therapy practices are helping individuals lead healthier and more comfortable lives.
However, to the dismay of our profession, new Medicare cuts pose a significant access threat for patients and the future of physical therapist assistant (PTAs). As a physical therapist assistant operating in New York City, I can attest to the importance of the clinical care we deliver and how my patients’ treatment plans may be negatively affected by these cuts.
Physical therapist assistants are board certified licensed clinical care providers who play a critical role in the patient care plan. Under the direction of a physical therapist, we care, treat, and help manage our patients’ injuries and symptoms that may be affecting their daily lives. Moreover, many of us develop more personal relationships with our patients and their families for years following treatment. PTAs directly assist the therapists in their practices by performing manual therapy techniques, developing unique patient exercise plans, and educating patients on anatomy functions for their condition. While there is overwhelming evidence to support the integral role of PTAs, Medicare recently implemented payment cuts of 15% to the services we provide. Following this implementation, many therapist assistants rightly feel underappreciated and misunderstood. If PTAs are removed from outpatient physical therapy clinics, like where I practice, many patients will experience disruptions in care and reduced access to quality care. It will also put additional stress on physical therapists who will be forced to see additional patients on top of the current caseload that they may already have.
In response to the threat these Medicare cuts pose to patients across New York and nationwide, Representatives Bobby Rush (D-IL) and Jason Smith (R-MO) have introduced the Stabilizing Medicare Access to Rehabilitation and Therapy (SMART) Act (H.R. 5536) The SMART Act is bipartisan legislation that will combat these cuts by delaying the 15% Medicare cuts by an effective date of one full year and carving out underserved communities from these cuts.
Unfortunately, not a single member of the New York Congressional Delegation has co-sponsored the SMART Act. It is time for our state’s lawmakers to recognize the contributions of my profession and the hard work my colleagues and I put in daily for our patients. I urge our lawmakers to support this bill in order to address these threatening Medicare cuts and ease the fears of America’s physical therapy workforce.