Consumers will have direct access to physical therapists under a bill signed into law by Gov. John Bel Edwards.

The measure, Senate Bill 291, won final legislative approval on May 31.

Edwards signed the legislation on Monday.

Patients previously had to get a referral from a licensed doctor to see a physical therapist.

Under the new law, they can do so without any such recommendation.

Physical therapists will be required to have a doctorate in physical therapy from an accredited institution or five years of licensed clinical practice to qualify for the new rules.

The legislative battle pitted physical therapists on one side and orthopedic surgeons, who usually make the referrals, on the other.

Backers said the change will save consumers time and money and put Louisiana in line with many other states.

In a prepared statement, Dr. Clark Gunderson, legislative chairman for the Louisiana Orthopaedic Association, said the bill bans physical therapists from making a diagnosis, which insurance firms require to cover the costs of physical therapy.

“This will be a significant financial burden to patients and their families,” Gunderson said.

The sponsor of the bill is Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks.

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