Specialty professionals critical for older Americans

During the COVID-19 pandemic we struggled to remain open and provide patients with physical therapy treatment due to a 50% drop in patient visits.

We stayed open the entire time following all CDC guidelines despite the risk because many of our patients needed us. Despite continued restrictions in our community we are slowly building back up while continuing to follow CDC guidelines.

However, as we are trying to fully recover from this pandemic, a 9% Medicare cut not only hurts our business but all rehab businesses across the United States. It also reduces care and access to physical therapy for many Medicare patients those who are at most risk.

Last year many physical therapists and physical therapy assistants lost their jobs due to changes in skilled nursing facilities payment model again targeting Medicare patients. When will we as a nation stop reducing or cutting care to Medicare patients who are at the greatest risk of developing COVID 19 related issues due to co-morbidities, developing generalized weakness due to reduced activity, at greatest risk for falls and require surgical intervention when pain becomes to unbearable.

The answers not cutting care to this population, it’s by improving access to physical therapy so that these issues can be addressed by conservative care which is more affordable and less expensive than many of the other options.

During National Physical Therapy Month, we recognize the important care physical therapists can provide to help patients manage pain and live healthier, more independent lives.

Yet, on Jan. 1, Medicare plans to make significant payment cuts that could result in provider closures and restricted access to care. Physical therapists and more than 30 other specialty providers-including oncologists, cardiologists, and ER doctors-will experience severe cuts, some as high as 11%, despite bipartisan opposition. The cuts threaten to force providers to scale back and reduce patient access.

Specialty professionals are critical for older Americans - especially in the context of this unprecedented public health emergency. Without access to these providers, Medicare patients will be forced to seek specialty care in more expensive settings, including the hospital. As we live through the COVID-19 crisis, we deserve a health system that is stable and reliable. Cutting healthcare payments during a healthcare crisis is bad policy. For the sake of patient access, it's time to block these cuts.

Chad Rieckenberg

Hanford

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