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Physical therapists fight diagnosis law

MONTGOMERY (AP) — Physical therapists want to change Alabama law that requires a patient to get a physician's approval before any therapy can be performed, but a doctor's group says a visit to a medical professional is essential to get a proper diagnosis.

Alabama and Indiana are the only states that do not allow physical therapists to evaluate patients without a doctor's referral, said Jay Jones, president of the Alabama Physical Therapy Association.

"We have the most restrictive practice act in the nation," Jones told the Montgomery Advertiser for a story Monday. "What we would love to do is change that to be in lockstep with the rest of the country."

Physical therapists say the law unfairly increases the medical bills of patients seeking to get therapy, and Jones is considering another bid to change it during this year's regular session of the Legislature.

But opposition is expected from the Medical Association of the State of Alabama and the Alabama State Chiropractic Association.

"Physical therapists are very, very qualified and do a good job at what they're trained to do, but in our estimation, they're not trained to make a medical diagnosis," said Mark Jackson, director of legislative affairs for the medical association.

He said there were numerous problems with previous attempts to change the law and that therapists refused to compromise on the issue two years ago.

Jones told the Advertiser that the physical therapist association is willing to work with the doctors' group.

State Rep. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, sponsored the bill for the physical therapy association.

He said it never got out of committee because there were too many details in dispute and the two sides "never found common ground."

But he said the law is a burden on the physical therapy profession as well as patients.

"If I were a physical therapist, I would go to another state to practice," he said.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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