When you get right down to it, consumer access to physical therapy could - and should - be an issue with bipartisan support nationwide. Both sides of the aisle should absolutely love it for very different reasons.
But it becomes readily apparent that they don't - at least not consistently from state to state. With a mid-term federal election cycle and plenty of state-wide elections soon to be upon us again, it would be helpful to understand why.
Bipartisan Reality #1: Using some stereotypical party politics:
If you are a Democrat, I would suspect that you are in support of improving patient access to health care.
If you are a Republican, I would suspect that you are in support of less government regulation and greater free market options.
Consumer access to physical therapy would be reflective of both of these political platforms.
Before we get excited about the prospects of this, consider just two states: California and Texas. California is a Democratic state - that still has yet to embrace the concept of consumer access to physical therapy. Texas is a Republican state - that still has yet to embrace the concept of consumer access to physical therapy. How is this parallel universe possible on the political spectrum?
Follow the money trail and it all makes sense.
Bipartisan Reality #2: Take a look at national lobbying spending. Here are the numbers for 2008 in the category "health professionals" (total is $78,455,862):
American Medical Association - $20,555,000 (26.2%)
American Academy of Family Physicians - $3,119,054 (4.0%)
American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons - $2,101,000 (2.7%)
American Chiropractic Association - $320,000 (0.4%)
Total of 4 groups = 33.3%
American Physical Therapy Association - $1,631,226 (2.1%)
Here are the numbers for 2012 (total is $79,434,923):
American Medical Association - $16,505,000 (20.8%)
American Academy of Family Physicians - $2,597,215 (3.3%)
American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons - $1,794,235 (2.3%)
American Chiropractic Association - $198,400 (0.2%)
Total of 4 groups = 26.6%
American Physical Therapy Association - $1,776,000 (2.2%)
You can also extrapolate this to the state level. Democrat or Republican, it doesn't matter. Lobbying spending runs the show.
Bipartisan Reality #3: If you are a physical therapist, I can almost guarantee that you will never have the monetary pull that opponents of consumer access to physical therapy currently own. Fortunately, one truism exists: voters elect legislators. And that's the beauty of it. There needs to be a better way to create change - and there is.
It's time for voters to ask candidates for elected office some simple questions. How beholden are the candidates – Democrat or Republican - to these health care political lobbying powers? Are the candidates prepared to stand up for your best interests?
Who's Making The Decisions Here? You are! On the health care front, I would suggest that most Americans would support improving their access to care and their freedom to choose their provider. Voters are the only way that true health care reform will be accomplished across the board. Consumer access to physical therapy is no different.
If the problem was purely Democrat or Republican, it would be a much easier point of focus. But it's not. Follow the money trail - and you will find the grass roots solution to consumer access to physical therapy. One person, one vote, one solution.
Photo credits: Keith Bacongco