Current Legislative Issues

2017 Legislative Session Recap

Protecting and Advancing the Practice of Physical Therapy: 2017 Legislative Session Recap

 During the 85th Legislative Session, TPTA introduced three bills and responded to many others. Our members were engaged with their legislators in targeted outreach efforts, and we held a successful Legislative Day.  Together, we continue to protect and advance the practice of physical therapy and help ensure access for our patients. 

Sunset Review of the Physical Therapy Practice Act
The Texas Board of Physical Therapy Examiners (TBPTE) and Executive Council of Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy Examiners (ECPTOTE) were scheduled for Sunset Review in 2017.  During the Sunset Review process, the Sunset Advisory Commission (“Sunset”) staff and members review the board or agency to determine whether it is still necessary. 

The Sunset staff initially suggested that the TBPTE be consolidated with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR), which would eliminate our independent licensing board and replace it with an advisory committee.  TPTA members and staff quickly responded. Based on key testimony from TPTA members and staff at the December 8th Sunset Advisory Commission hearing, this recommendation was pulled from the final recommendation.

The Senate Bill, SB 317, was carried by Senator Robert Nichols, and the House Bill, HB 3210, was carried by Representative Cindy Burkett. The Senate version of the bill was successfully passed during legislative session, and was signed by Governor Abbott on June 9th.

Direct Patient Access
The direct patient access bill, SB 728, was filed in the Senate by Senator Van Taylor and was co-authored by Senator Jose Rodriguez. The House bill, HB 2118, was filed by Representative Stephanie Klick and was co-authored by Representatives Garnet Coleman, Briscoe Cain, Matt Rinaldi, Matt Schaefer, and James White.  The filed bill would have allowed for direct patient access for 30 calendar days by physical therapists who have been licensed to practice for at least one year, were covered by professional liability insurance in the minimum amount required by board rule, and either hold a doctoral degree in physical therapy or completed at least 30 hours of continuing competence activities in the area of differential diagnosis.

Neither bill was passed out of committee.

Physical Therapy Licensure Compact
In April 2014, an advisory task force was assembled by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy, with the goal of drafting a proposal for the Physical Therapy Licensure Compact (“Compact”). Ten states needed to pass specific language in their practice acts in order to enact and participate in the Compact. Oregon became the first state to pass the Compact in March 2016.

While the Compact language was included in the Sunset bills, TPTA decided to pursue a stand-alone bill to ensure that the language was appropriately adopted (any changes to the language would make it void and not allow the state to participate in the Compact). Representative Travis Clardy filed HB 2765.

TPTA members testified in support of the bill on and it was reported favorably from committee without amendments and later passed by the full House. The bill was then referred to the Senate Business and Commerce Committee. TPTA members testified before the Senate committee and it was reported favorably from committee and passed by the full Senate. Governor Abbott signed the bill on June 9th, ensuring Texas’ participation in the Compact.

Medicaid Rates and the Appropriation Bills
Medicaid therapy services have been the subject of proposed and adopted Appropriations bill riders since 2013. These riders have resulted in continuous reductions in Medicaid therapy rates, as well as policy changes to decrease spending. These changes and cuts have reduced access to physical therapy services, and negatively impacted children and people with disabilities who rely on Medicaid therapy services.

Both the Appropriations Bill SB1 and the Supplemental Appropriations Bill HB 2 proposed partial rate restorations on Medicaid therapy services reductions proposed for 2017.  The final passed Appropriations Bill included a 25% restoration of rates for the 2018-19 biennium, and included several riders to study therapy services and ensure continued access to care, and additional funds to delay reductions for PTA-rendered services.  The final passed Supplemental Appropriations Bill included a 50% restoration of rates for the remaining 2017 budget (through August 31, 2017).