Patients would have direct access to physical therapists under a bill that won final legislative approval Monday.

The measure, Senate Bill 291, cleared the Senate 33-2.

Senators easily went along with minor changes added to the legislation in the House.

Whether Gov. John Bel Edwards will sign the bill is unclear.

Patients now have to obtain a referral from a licensed doctor to see a physical therapist.

Under the change, they could do so without any such recommendation.

“I think what it is going to mean is a more convenient option, more choices,” Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks and chief sponsor of the bill, said Tuesday. “I think it is going to bring more patient care in an accessible, convenient method.”

The bill says if the patient fails to show “measurable or functional” improvement within 30 calendar days, the therapist would have to refer the patient to another health care provider.

The issue put orthopedists, who usually make the referrals, on one side and physical therapists on the other.

Backers argued the legislation would put Louisiana in line with many other states.

Opponents said the new rules mean therapists could miss a potentially life-threatening health problem.

Mills said he outlined House changes to the bill during a meeting Monday with officials of the Governor’s Office. “I am optimistic, but I hate to speak for him until he has a chance to look at all the amendments,” Mills said of chances the governor will sign the legislation.

To qualify for the new rules, a physical therapist would be required to have a doctorate in physical therapy from an accredited institution or five years of licensed clinical practice.

Therapists would be banned from offering a medical diagnosis of a disease.

Follow Will Sentell on Twitter @WillSentell.

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