Physical therapists incentivized to work in underserved areas under bipartisan Wicker bill

Bipartisan legislation recently introduced by U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) seeks to encourage more physical therapists to work in America’s rural and underserved areas.

Sen. Wicker on Aug. 9 cosponsored the Physical Therapist Workforce and Patient Access Act of 2021, S. 2676, with bill sponsor U.S. Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), to make physical therapists eligible to participate in the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Loan Repayment Program, which incentivizes medical professionals to practice in rural and underserved areas of the country. 

“Physical therapists bring tremendous value to their communities and are an essential part of helping patients heal after illness or injury,” Wicker said. “I am glad to join my colleague Senator Tester in this effort.”

Medical professionals currently eligible for the NHSC program include primary care physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and mental health professionals. However, physical therapists are currently not included in the NHSC, according to the bill summary provided by Sen. Wicker’s staff.

If enacted, S. 2676 would change that by amending the Public Health Service Act to make physical therapists eligible for the NHSC Loan Repayment Program and then would require them to commit to two years of full-time service in exchange for up to $50,000 of loan repayment, the bill summary says. 

“Health care professionals often graduate with mountains of student debt that makes it tough to take jobs in rural communities, making it harder for the folks living there to access critical services like physical therapy they need,” Sen. Tester said. “This bipartisan bill will make it easier for top-notch healthcare providers to live and work in the rural communities that depend on them, and will make accessing quality health care easier and more affordable for all Montanans.”

The bill has been referred to the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee for consideration.