Physical therapists lobby for patients

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— Two physical therapists head to Washington later this month to support legislation that would improve patients' access to physical therapy.

Chriss Parks, proprietor of the Center for Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation, and Randy Roesch-Cinquemani, a medical business consultant, will encourage Colorado's representatives in Congress to back proposed changes to the way Medicare patients are treated.

The Medicare Patient Access to Physical Therapists Act would eliminate the need for Medicare patients to see a physician before physical therapists can treat them.

Supporters of the bill believe physician referrals cause unnecessary delay and cost.

More than 2,000 physical therapists, physical therapist assistants and students from across the country are expected to gather on Capitol Hill June 19 for a rally in support of the legislation.

Several House and Senate members have already signed onto the bill. None of Routt County's representatives, however, have endorsed the idea.

Parks and Roesch-Cinquemani will try to sell the bill to Rep. Scott McInnis, R-Grand Junction, and Sens. Wayne Allard and Ben Nighthorse Campbell.

Parks and Roesch-Cinquemani are members of the American Physical Therapy Association, one of the largest medical political action committees in the United States.

They annually join hundreds of physical therapists in Washington to lobby on behalf of their colleagues.

About 40 states allow patients to visit a licensed physical therapist without a doctor's note. Supporters of the proposed legislation believe Medicare patients deserve the same privilege.

Eliminating a trip to the doctor could save money, time and frustration, Parks said.

Some insurance companies refuse to pay physical therapists for the care they provide if their patients don't first visit a doctor.

Direct access to physical therapy would allow Medicare patients to get treatment faster, and physical therapists who treat patients without a doctor's referral would avoid the struggle with insurance companies that refuse to pay for treatment, Roesch-Cinquemani said.

If the bill passes, she and Parks expect changes for Medicare patients would eventually apply to all patients.

"Our hope certainly is when Medicare goes (that direction), the third-party-payer world goes the same direction," Parks said. "It has a high potential ... to be more cost effective and improve quality of life for patients."

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