Legislation incentivizes physical therapists to practice in rural and underserved areas.

Mississippi U.S. Senator Roger Wicker (R) and Montana U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D) have introduced the Physical Therapist Workforce and Patient Access Act of 2021 which is bipartisan legislation that will increase access to critical physical therapy services by bringing more health care professionals to rural areas.

“Physical therapists bring tremendous value to their communities and are an essential part of helping patients heal after illness or injury,” Senator Wicker said. “This legislation would add physical therapists to The National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program, encouraging students to stay and continue practicing in rural and underserved areas after completing their education. I am glad to join my colleague Senator Tester in this effort.”

This bill will amend the Public Health Service Act to provide for the participation of physical therapists in the National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program, and for other purposes. Physical therapists are currently not included in the NHSC.

The legislation requires NHSC participants to commit to two years of full-time service in exchange for up to $50,000 of loan repayment. Medical professionals currently eligible for the NHSC include primary care physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and mental health professionals.

The Physical Therapist Workforce and Patient Access Act of 2021 notes that physical therapists play an important role in the prevention, treatment, or management of pain for individuals. Especially for those individuals with substance use disorders, or are at risk of developing a substance use disorder. 

The bill also states that, “physical therapists are also playing an important role in the physical rehabilitation needs of individuals who have developed chronic health conditions as a result of COVID–19.”

“Health care professionals often graduate with mountains of student debt that makes it tough to take jobs in rural communities, making it harder for the folks living there to access critical services like physical therapy they need,” Senator Tester said. “This bipartisan bill will make it easier for top-notch health care providers to live and work in the rural communities that depend on them, and will make accessing quality health care easier and more affordable for all Montanans.”