Senators Carper and Barrasso Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Expand Access to Physical and Occupational Therapy Services

The Enabling More of the Physical and Occupational Workforce to Engage in Rehabilitation Act would make therapy services more accessible to millions of Americans

Today, Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) introduced the Enabling More of the Physical and Occupational Workforce to Engage in Rehabilitation (EMPOWER) Act. Currently, the vast majority of states allow skilled physical and occupational therapy assistants to care for their patients without a supervisor present. This bipartisan legislation would align federal law with state laws by expanding access to therapy services for Medicare Part B recipients across the country.

“Everyone deserves access to physical and occupational therapy services, but the current requirements limit the availability of these services for millions of Americans,” said Senator Carper. “By reducing unnecessary administrative burdens, physical and occupational therapy assistants will be able to help patients get the services they need, right when they need it.”

“As an orthopedic surgeon, I’ve seen firsthand the importance of therapy services for my patients. Our bill makes it easier for patients in Wyoming to access physical and occupational therapy. I will continue finding bipartisan solutions so patients, especially seniors on Medicare, can get the care they need,” said Senator Barrasso.

The EMPOWER Act has received widespread support from key stakeholders in the therapy services sector, including the American Physical Therapy Association, American Occupational Therapy Association, Athletico Physical Therapy, APTA Private Practice, National Association of Rehabilitation Providers and Agencies, and the Alliance for Physical Therapy Quality and Innovation.

“The American Physical Therapy Association is grateful to Senators Carper and Barrasso for their leadership on this bipartisan legislation to improve patient access to care, especially in rural and underserved areas,” said APTA President Roger Herr, PT, MPA. “According to an independent, non-partisan study published by the firm Dobson Davanzo & Associates, the cost savings this legislation will bring are projected to be as much as $271 million. The changes will also reduce administrative burden and provide helpful flexibilities for physical therapists in small businesses. Lastly, changing supervision requirement allows physical therapist assistants to practice at the top of their license, recognizing the valuable role they play in the health care system and providing critical support to therapy clinics.”

“Our physical and occupational therapy assistants are essential to providing high quality care to the Medicare patients we serve throughout Delaware, especially those in rural and medically underserved communities,” said Chris Throckmorton, PT, President and CEO of Athletico Physical Therapy. “We applaud Sen. Carper and Sen. Barrasso’s leadership on the introduction of the EMPOWER Act that recognizes the value of therapy assistants and increases access to care for those who need it most.”

The EMPOWER Act builds on Senator Carper’s legacy of expanding access to comprehensive health care, especially for underserved communities. In the 117th Congress, Senators Carper and Barrasso introduced a bill that would have expanded access to physical and occupational therapy services.

The full text of the bill can be found here.