After a burst of testimonials for physical therapists, the Louisiana Senate approved a bill Tuesday that would allow patients to visit therapists without a physician’s referral.
The vote was 31-7.
The measure, Senate Bill 291, next faces action in the state House.
Under current rules, patients generally have to get a referral from a licensed doctor to visit a physical therapist.
The legislation would shelve that requirement.
Instead, therapists would have to provide notice to a doctor chosen by the patient within 15 days after treatment began.
The bill also says that, if the patient has failed to show “measurable or functional improvement” after 30 days, the therapist would have to refer them to “an appropriate health care provider.”
Sen. Fred Mills Jr., R-Parks, sponsor of SB291, said his plan is about offering patients accessibility.
“We are one of the most restrictive states in the U.S.,” Mills told the Senate.
He said 18 states offer residents unrestricted access to physical therapists, 27 states do so with some limitations and Nebraska has offered total access since 1957.
“We are not cutting edge here,” Mills said.
Several senators shared stories on how physical therapists helped them.
State Sen. Yvonne Colomb, D-Baton Rouge, said she got sound assistance from a therapist for a back problem.
Sen. John Milkovich, D-Shreveport, praised the help he got for a bad knee.
Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, who voted “no” on the bill, said his concerns are practical.
“This isn’t an attack on physical therapists,” Claitor said. “They do great things. I have used them. My family members have used them.
“But I want to know how this is actually going to work in practice,” he added.
On the 15-day notification requirement, Claitor said, “What as a practical matter is that really going to do?”
He also questioned the value of the 30-day rule.
“Who will make that determination of functional improvement?” Claitor asked.