Stretching for Patients: Physical Therapists Bet on Affordable Care Act for Fiscal Strength

Article excerpt

Vicki Buchanan says she has a great business idea. If she's wrong, she'll lose a fortune.

Buchanan and her business partner, Thaja Giles, are betting that national changes in health care law will increase demand for physical therapists. So Buchanan has invested $300,000 of her own money to remodel a building and hire and train two new staff members. She selected Giles to lead the new south Oklahoma City office of Regional Physical Therapy Inc. They estimated a two-year return on money invested from Buchanan's original Midwest City practice.

They need to double their patient load to break even, and expect they can accomplish that in two years or less, Giles said.

Because physical therapy is one of the 10 essential health benefits that must be included on a health care exchange under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Buchanan said she expects the number of people who seek that treatment to grow. Deborah Crandall covers regulatory affairs for the national trade group the American Physical Therapists Association, and she said the demand for that type of health care service will likely increase.

Debbie Christian, president of the Oklahoma Physical Therapy Association, agreed. But it's difficult to measure with precision how much demand will grow on a state or local level, Crandall said.

Private insurance companies are collecting data on how many people seek physical therapy, but they don't share that information. So Crandall and her associates must rely on anecdotal feedback from members to estimate demand. However, she said urban areas will likely see an increase. …


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