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Direct Access to Physical Therapists

In Illinois, you no longer need a script from a doctor to begin seeing a physical therapist.

Office of the Governor
Bruce Rauner

For Immediate Release
Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018

Governor signs new law to facilitate access to physical therapy services
Reduced opioid use among the benefits predicted

SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Bruce Rauner today signed House Bill 4643, which allows consumers to pursue and begin physical therapy services without a doctor’s referral while still ensuring professional medical oversight safeguards.

The law, effective immediately, permits physical therapists to evaluate clients and determine a treatment plan without first having to submit a diagnosis for a health care professional’s approval, speeding the path to relief and healing.

“Physical therapy has been proven effective in treating joint pain and mobility issues,” Rauner said. “Seeing a physical therapist promptly and starting a rehabilitative course of treatment quickly can reduce or eliminate the need for potentially addicting pain medications, and can reduce overall health care costs. This legislation is a win for everyone.”

Under the legislation, a physical therapist providing services without a referral from a health care professional must notify the patient’s treating health care professional within five business days that the patient is receiving physical therapy. This does not apply to those seeking physical therapy for general, non-injury-related fitness or wellness.

“Studies across the country have shown that direct access to physical therapy is extremely cost-effective, reducing total health care costs by as much as 30 percent and, in some cases, reducing patients’ out-of-pocket costs by as much as 80 percent,” said Mike Riley, president, Illinois Physical Therapy Association.

“The most important benefit, however, is that studies have shown an amazing 90 percent reduction in opioid use when consumers have access to physical therapy,” he continued. “Since physical therapy is a non-addictive treatment that helps manage pain, thousands of Illinois pain sufferers will get relief without opioids. The health and cost benefits of this alone are staggering.”

“This bill was a result of collaboration within Illinois’ health care community on behalf of patients in Illinois,” said Colleen Flannery, executive director of the Illinois Physical Therapy Association. “We thank Gov. Rauner for making it a priority today, and we are grateful for the unanimous, bipartisan support of the General Assembly.”