October 08, 2013
Area(s) of Interest: Advocacy Scope of Practice
Gov. Brown has signed into law AB 1000, a bill that clarifies an ambiguity in existing law, so that physical therapists can continue to work within the legal boundaries of medical corporations as they have for decades. The bill also gives health care consumers the ability to seek treatment from a physical therapist without a physicians’ consent for a limited period of time.
In 2010, the regulatory rules that allow physicians with professional corporations to hire physical therapists were reinterpreted by the physical therapy board, making it unclear as to whether physicians can legally employ physical therapists. This bill adds physical therapists to Section 13401 of the Corporations Code, which delineates who can be hired by a professional corporation and also includes psychologists, registered nurses, optometrists, podiatrists, chiropractors, acupuncturists, naturopathic doctors, occupational therapists, or, in the case of a medical corporation only, physician assistants, marriage and family therapists, clinical counselors and clinical social workers.
The bill also allows physical therapists to treat patients for 45 calendar business days, or 12 visits, without first seeing a physician. Although California Medical Association had previously opposed attempts to authorize such "direct access," we believe that the current language is an acceptable compromise. The bill does not expand or modify the scope of practice for physical therapists, including the existing prohibition on a physical therapists diagnosing disease. The bill will require physical therapists to refer patients to a physician to ensure there is no underlying medical condition if the therapy extends beyond 45 calendar days or 12 visits, whichever comes first.