ALEXANDRIA, VA, June 17, 2009 — Legislation to establish a Frontline Providers Loan Repayment Program that includes physical therapists was introduced Tuesday by Representative Bruce Braley (D-IA). The Access to Frontline Health Care Act of 2009 (HR 2891) would encourage physical therapists to practice in underserved areas, says the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA).
HR 2891, which would amend the Public Health Service Act, creates a process that is similar to the National Health Services Corp (NHSC) in which a provider signs a commitment to practice in an area for at least 2 years in exchange for student loan repayment. Currently, physical therapists are not included in the NHSC's Loan Repayment Program. This legislation would complement the Physical Therapist Student Loan Repayment Eligibility Act of 2009 (HR 988), which would allow physical therapists to participate in the NHSC's program.
Under HR 2891, providers pledge to practice in a "Frontline Scarcity Area." Scarcity areas include a Health Professional Shortage Area as defined by the Health Resources and Services Administration Shortage Designation Branch of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), or an area designated by a state as having a shortage of frontline care services. HHS' Secretary can give preference to a scarcity area in which an entity has demonstrated that it has an interdisciplinary program, or pledges to initiate such a program. The Secretary also determines the amount of the loan repayment.
"APTA applauds Representative Braley for introducing this much needed legislation and including physical therapists in it," said APTA President R. Scott Ward, PT, PhD. "With health care reform legislation on the horizon, it's imperative that our leaders address workforce issues as a part of overall reform. The Frontline Providers Loan Repayment Program would bring physical therapists to areas in the country where their services are greatly needed."
In addition to physical therapy, the following qualify as frontline services: general surgery, chiropractic, optometry, ophthalmology, audiology, speech language pathology, pharmacy, public health, podiatric medicine, dietetics, occupational therapy, general pediatrics, respiratory therapy, medical technology, and radiologic technology. All services must be performed by a health care provider with the appropriate education.
Physical therapists are highly-educated, licensed health care professionals who can help patients reduce pain and improve or restore mobility – in many cases without expensive surgery or the side effects of prescription medications. APTA represents more than 72,000 physical therapists, physical therapist assistants, and students of physical therapy nationwide. Its purpose is to improve the health and quality of life of individuals through the advancement of physical therapist practice, education, and research. In most states, patients can make an appointment directly with a physical therapist, without a physician referral. Learn more about conditions physical therapists can treat and find a physical therapist in your area at www.moveforwardpt.com.