Lawmakers advance PT compact bill

Posted February 15

— A bipartisan bill that would make it easier for physical therapists licensed in other states to practice in North Carolina is moving quickly in the state House.

House Bill 57 would add the state to a multi-state physical therapy licensing compact. Sponsor Rep. John Szoka, R-Cumberland, said the proposal "helps military spouses and military members predominantly."

Under the proposal, military members and spouses who are licensed physical therapists in other compact states who are then stationed in North Carolina would not have to go through the process of gaining a PT license in North Carolina. Instead, they could apply to be recognized through the compact, and they could do that in advance, so they would be able to practice in the state as soon as they move in.

Alex Miller, a lobbyist for the state's physical therapist association, said compact licensing is not limited to military members and their spouses, but he said they're the most likely to take advantage of it.

"The bill is a priority of the Department of Defense, who has made it one of their key issues for the year, because it does have this great benefit to military members and their spouses," Miller said.

He added that the proposal shouldn't cause any concern about lower standards of care.

"A physical therapist license and education is fairly standard across the country," Miller said, explaining that compact licensees are still subject to the regulations of the state where they're practicing. "When they come to North Carolina, they’ll be held to the exact same standards that North Carolina PTs are currently held to."

Szoka compared the bill to the 25-state nurse licensure compact that began in 1999. North Carolina has been a member of that compact since 2000.

"This is not a scope-of-practice bill, and it’s not ceding state authority to any group outside of the state of North Carolina," he assured the House Health Committee on Wednesday, adding that it will not cost the state any money. "It supports military members and relocating military spouses."

Szoka added that he'd like to see the legislation pass quickly "because the first 10 states that pass this bill get a seat on the compact council to help run the thing."

According to the national Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy, four states have already joined the compact: Arizona, Missouri, Oregon, and Tennessee. Montana's legislation is awaiting its governor's signature.

The bill passed the committee unanimously with little debate. It could be on the House floor as soon as Thursday.


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