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Physical Therapist Bill Headed to Governor

The Senate and Assembly this week passed a bill that could change some of the rules regarding physicians, physical therapists and patients.

AB 1000 by Assembly member Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont), designed to increase patients’ direct access to physical therapists, is headed to the governor’s desk.

“Patients will no longer need a diagnosis from a physician before beginning treatment from a physical therapist,” Wieckowski said in a statement. “This is a great victory for health care consumers in California.”

The bill was co-sponsored by the California Physical Therapy Association, and yet the main opposition to the bill also came from physical therapists.

Paul Gaspar, president of the Independent Physical Therapists of California, said the bill wasn’t really about direct patient access to therapy as much as it was about changing the financial relationship between physicians and physical therapists.

“People who own [physical therapy] businesses are very concerned about this,” Gaspar said. “We feel threatened that people are going to take advantage of us.”

Physician groups now will be able to directly hire physical therapists, and Gaspar said that means they’ll be able to make money on the work of other providers. That bucks a national trend, he said, that goes against referral-for-profit plans.  

Gaspar said his group will talk to the governor’s office about the possibility of a veto, based in part on national legislation (HR 2914) by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo) that may conflict with the state law.

Wieckowski said direct access to physical therapists can only be good for consumers.

“This bill helps streamline health care delivery in California and will help patients get the access they need,” he said, “rather than losing valuable time with unnecessary and costly delays.”

KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues. Together with Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the three major operating programs at KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is an endowed nonprofit organization providing information on health issues to the nation.

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