APTA | Falls Prevention Legislation Introduced

Academy News, Practice & Advocacy,

Information Bulletin: Falls Prevention Legislation Introduced

On Monday, March 11th, APTA-supported legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives that would expand the role of falls screening and prevention by physical therapists and include PT falls prevention-related services in Medicare's "welcome" visit and annual wellness visits.


Known as the Stopping Addiction and Falls for the Elderly Act, aka SAFE Act (H.R. 7618), the legislation would make falls screening and services conducted by PTs a part of both the "Welcome to Medicare" visit, officially titled the Initial Preventive Physical Examination, and the Medicare Annual Wellness Visit. The bill was introduced by Reps. Carol Miller, R-W.Va., and Melanie Stansbury, D-N.M. APTA strongly supports the legislation.


The idea behind the SAFE Act is twofold; to reduce falls among older adults, and through that reduction, to decrease opioid use that often occurs after a fall injury. Specifically, the bill would ensure that Medicare beneficiaries who were identified as having experienced a fall in the year prior to their Initial Preventive Physical Examination would be referred to a physical therapist for falls screening and preventive services. In addition, beneficiaries who've been enrolled in Medicare for at least a year and who choose to participate in an annual wellness visit, or AWV, (different from an annual physical) would be referred for a separate falls risk and assessment and potential additional PT services if the AWV reveals that they've fallen within the previous year.


The legislation is consistent with findings from an APTA report that identified cost savings associated with seeing a PT first or early on for eight common conditions, with falls included in that list. That report, titled "The Economic Value of Physical Therapy in the United States," concluded that seeing a PT for falls prevention services was associated with a net cost benefit of approximately $2,100 per episode of care, primarily by way of the hospital admissions and emergency department visits that could be avoided.


The SAFE Act will be one of the pieces of legislation that APTA members will be advocating in support of as part of the upcoming APTA Capitol Hill Day scheduled for April 14-16 in Washington, DC. Please stayed tuned for additional updates on advocacy opportunities to support the legislation.