APTA Comment Letter - Senate Select Committee on Aging – Notes from Hearing on Falls and Falls Prevention

Posted: October 22, 2019

On Wednesday, October 16th the Senate Select Committee on Aging held a hearing on falls and falls prevention. This hearing was held in conjunction of the committee’s anticipated report on falls prevention.  APTA submitted extensive comments to the committee in response to their RFI on falls prevention earlier this summer in preparation for the report.

Representing the HH Section, Jason Falvey, PT, DPT, PhD, lead the HH Section's response to the Committee's invitation to stakeholders to comment. Thank you, Jason, for all of your efforts in this and for representing the Home Health Section!

Attached items include:

  • Senate Aging Committee’s long awaited report on falls
  • National Council on Aging’s witness testimony
  • MaineHealth’s witness testimony

Witnesses:

  • Kathleen Cameron (National Council on Aging)
  • Peggy Haynes (MaineHealth)
  • Elizabeth Thompson (National Osteoporosis Foundation)
  • Virginia Demmy (PA resident, patient)

Summary:
The Senate Committee on Aging conducted a hearing on the economic and human toll of older Americans who fall. Falls affect a third of all older Americans and cost billions of healthcare dollars every year. Falls are often the starting point of a downward spiral towards critical health issues. The witnesses all mentioned the importance of awareness and preventive screening under Medicare. The witnesses emphasized that evidence-based programs to keep people active, retrain balance, and build strength have more positive outcomes after falls. The most discussed topics of the hearing were Maine’s “A Matter of Balance” evidence-based program, home modifications, and preventative evaluations by clinicians. Most senators asked for details on how to meet the needs of rural elderly citizens through telehealth and rural hospital evaluations. The Chairwoman concluded that with the Committee’s report and stakeholder input, falls can be prevented with low cost solutions compared to other healthcare issues facing the nation.

Notable points impacting the APTA:

  • NCOA’s opening statement included a proposal to “Expand payment of providers for the Welcome to Medicare and AWV to include both physical therapist and occupational therapists.” See more details in NCOA written statement on page 13.
  • MaineHealth’s opening statement indicated that their innovative and widely successful fall prevention program called “A Matter of Balance” was started and led by clinicians including physical therapists. See more details in MaineHealth’s written statement on page 2.
  • During the question period, Sen. Collins asked the MaineHealth witness which entities are offering these evidence-based programs for rural areas specifically asking if “community health centers, PT’s, rural hospitals” were included. The MaineHealth witness indicated that all of these have been providing the Matter of Balance classes.
  • During the question period, Sen. Doug Jones gave a story about his mother experiencing multiple falls and asked the witnesses: “How important is it, for any fall of an elderly person, to see some form of physical therapy or occupational therapy as a follow up?” The National Osteoporosis Foundation witness said it is “critically important” and then went on to more about bone density screening.
  • Sen. Collins concluded by telling a story of her own fall a few years ago that resulted in a broken ankle. She said: “I am forever grateful to the OT and PT who helped me gain function again” and “It was the OT and PT who really got me back on my feet and walking again.”
  • Sen. Collins then entered all the stakeholder comments (including APTA’s comment letter) into the record.

Members can login here to view the APTA comment. It is listed under "Documentation, Billing and Claims."