Archived Story

Physical therapy lobbies for direct access

Published 5:01pm Monday, June 25, 2012

Life in Balance President Alex Markovich would like to see Michigan enact direct access to physical therapy, which 47 states already have, he told state Sen. John Proos Monday.

Life in Balance Physical Therapy President Alex Markovich Monday morning coached state Sen. John Proos in Pilates. Life in Balance, 20 North Second Street, has been in Niles for 12 years and added locations in Mishawaka and South Bend.

“There would be so many opportunities to save money through prevention and serve our community where our hands are tied,” Markovich said. “Even a massage therapist with a six-month certificate can see people off the street and I can’t with a master’s degree. I wanted to make you aware of the financial burden lack of direct access puts. We have to have a doctor referral.”

Patients are seen for 80 minutes at an initial evaluation, then 40 minutes at every session after that.

“Physical therapy winds up saving money,” Markovich said.

Without direct access, someone with lower back pain sees a doctor, which might take a week to arrange for an eight-minute exam, resulting in a prescription for medication.

There might be another appointment or two for tests.

“Weeks go by without any relief,” Markovich said, “and now it’s a chronic issue when they start physical therapy. Why don’t we do physical therapy first? Because there’s a perceived threat of this up-and-coming, evolving field getting into an arena of new territory. You’ve got to look at what’s best for the customer and who’s paying the bills. There are no studies showing direct access increases health industry costs or malpractice in states that have it. We are trained to assess the musculoskeletal system but need to be empowered.”

Proos, R-St. Joseph, asked how the Supreme Court imminent decision on the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, would impact Life in Balance.

“Something needs to be done, obviously,” Markovich said. “It’s a tragedy when people live in fear for their health care benefits. But the way this bill was pushed through with the economy the way it is scares me. The government can’t even pay its light bill. I don’t buy the savings. It seems short-sighted and very politically driven by the president. I don’t think it’s constitutional to require someone to buy (health insurance). However, Medicare and the commercial insurance industry are making positive changes in prevention and incentivizing quality of care.”

“Reimbursement based on results and quality is the way to go,” he said. “I’d like to create a system which reduces cost first before we add to the system and make it harder to manage. The public is fed up and paying attention.”

“The best way to save money is to never spend it in the first place,” Proos said.

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