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ADVANCE Perspective: Physical Therapy & Rehab Medicine

APTA Disappointed with Judicial Decision

Published May 17, 2010 11:00 AM by Brian Ferrie

The May 14 PT Bulletin from APTA detailed an interesting legislative development affecting the profession (http://www.apta.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Current_Issue&TEMPLATE=/CM/HTMLDisplay.cfm&ContentID=71677).

According to the press release, on March 18 the Washington State Supreme Court issued a decision in the case of Columbia Physical Therapy vs. Benton Franklin Orthopedic Associates. The court unanimously ruled in favor of a practice owned by medical doctors (MDs) in a lawsuit challenging its right to employ physical therapists to whom the MDs refer patients.

The challenge was brought by Columbia Physical Therapy Inc (Columbia), a PT-owned professional service corporation, against Benton Franklin Orthopedic Associates, PLLC (BFOA), a professional limited-liability company owned by MDs. The court's opinion is accessible online at this link. An explanation of the decision and APTA's statement can be found here.

Both APTA and the Washington Chapter filed amicus curiae briefs with the Washington Supreme Court supporting Columbia. APTA and the chapter are disappointed with the result in this case. Although the court's opinion obviously is adverse to APTA's efforts to minimize referral for profit, the precedent is binding only in the state of Washington. 

In addition, noted APTA, the court's opinion does not negate the studies and research showing physician ownership of physical therapist services (POPTS) leads to higher costs, increased utilization and decreased patient choice. The court said it would be an unfair and deceptive practice under Washington's consumer protection statute for a referring physician to tell patients they can receive physical therapy only from a PT clinic in which the referring physician has an ownership interest.

What are your thoughts about this judicial decision?

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