It’s official: starting June 13, physical therapists (PTs) in certain areas will be able to bring in another licensed PT to treat Medicare patients during temporary absences for illness, pregnancy, vacation, or continuing medical education, and bill Medicare for the services. And just as the new provisions begin, the old term for the concept—”locum tenens”—will be discontinued, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
In a transmittal published May 12, CMS announced that “reciprocal billing and fee-for-time arrangements” under Medicare part B will be extended to PTs in health professional shortage areas (HPSA), medically underserved areas (MUA), or in CMS-designated rural areas (any area outside of a Metropolitan Statistical Area or Metropolitan Division). The change, triggered by the passage of the 21st Century Cures Act signed into law in December 2016, was 1 of APTA’s top public policy priorities.
A version of a bill that would allow physical therapists (PTs) in private practice to provide Medicare patients continuity of care in the PT’s absence has been introduced in the US Senate. Like its companion bill introduced in the US House of Representatives last year, the Prevent Interruptions in Physical Therapy Act (H.R. 3426/S. 2818) would expand so-called “locum tenens” arrangements to include PTs.
Locum tenens provisions allow health care providers to bring in another licensed provider to treat Medicare patients and bill Medicare through the practice provider number during temporary absences for illness, pregnancy, vacation, or continuing medical education. Current law only extends locum tenens to doctors of medicine, osteopathy, dental surgery, podiatric medicine, optometry, and chiropractic, forcing PTs in private practice to avoid absences or risk gaps in patient and client care.