President Signs Law Allowing PTAs in TRICARE; Implementation May Not Be Immediate

Physical therapist assistants (PTAs) are on their way to officially joining the TRICARE payment program used throughout the Department of Defense (DoD) health care system. President Donald Trump’s signature on the National Defense Authorization Act enacts a change long advocated by APTA, but what happens next isn’t entirely clear.

One thing that’s certain: the change won’t take effect immediately. APTA Senior Congressional Affairs Specialist Michael Hurlbut says PTAs should keep themselves updated on the progress of implementation.

“This is a huge step forward for PTAs, but the law itself simply directs DoD to make the change—it will take some time for actual regulations to be created and put in place,” Hurlbut said. “APTA staff are monitoring progress, and will keep members informed of the timeline for the changeover to the expanded TRICARE system.”

The first glimmers of a possible change in TRICARE came in June 2017, when a US House of Representatives committee requested that the Secretary of Defense come up with a plan for bringing PTAs, occupational therapy assistants, and other support personnel into the TRICARE system. From there, action on the idea moved relatively rapidly from the House to a Senate committee, and then on to a vote in the full Senate in November.

“We’re very pleased that this APTA-backed change has been achieved,” Hurlbut said. “This addition will make a difference for patients in TRICARE who deserve access to the valuable services provided by PTAs.”

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