California Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi told a state Senate Committee Monday she is temporarily pulling from reconsideration her hotly contested bill to make it legal for physical therapists to work for medical corporations.
Hayashi’s decision represents a major, if possibly temporary victory, for independent physical therapists, or “PT's,” who claim that such a bill would enable physicians, podiatrists and chiropractors to hijack the physical therapy industry and drive any "PT" not working profitably for them out of business.
After Hayashi's measure was defeated in the Senate Business Professions and Economic Committee a week ago, with three "No" votes, four abstentions and only three "ayes," she asked that a new vote be scheduled.
In the interim she and her supporters, many of whom are medical professionals and her biggest political donors, waged an intense behind-the-scenes effort to change minds and win new allies.
Shortly after the committee reconvened in Sacramento on Monday, Hayashi advised the chairman, Sen. Curren Price, that she was withdrawing her call for immediate reconsideration of her bill and said that she would take his advice and sit down with representatives of the California Association of Physical Therapists, who oppose the measure, to see what can be worked out.
Paul Gaspar, an activist for independent therapists like himself told NBC LA that he is skeptical her offer.
He said that when association representatives approached Hayashi in May to discuss a possible compromise, she replied that she would not have time for such an exchange until June 7, a day after the committee was initially to have taken up her proposal.
As it happened, the chair postponed that hearing until June 13, and it was then that the vote went against her and she called for reconsideration. She rescinded that request on Monday.
Proponents have spent $2.4 million to get the bill passed, according to Maplight, a blog that tracks political expenditures, while the Association of Physical Therapists has spent $57,000 to block it.
The Hayashi measure is a second bite of the apple for those in the medical profession who want to own the physical therapy clinics to which they refer patients. A similar bill sponsored by Assemblyman Joel Anderson was voted down in the same committee in July 2009.
Hayashi has said in written statements that her bill is designed to clear up "ambiguities" in existing law, which rules out the employment of physical therapists by medical corporations. She also has said the current law would cause many physical therapists who currently work for such corporations, to forfeit their jobs.
Gaspar told NBC LA that Hayashi decided to call off the vote today in order avoid to another defeat in the committee. Under Senate rules, he said, once a legislative proposal is twice rebuffed in committee, it is effectively dead.
He acknowledged that Hayashi has one more opportunity to call for a vote before the session ends, and that could come next Monday.
In a statement, Molly Weedn of the California Medical Association said the group, which represents 40,000 physicians in the state, "supports this bill because of the continuity of quality medical care for patients.
"The Physical Therapy Board’s action threatens to disrupt the care of our members’ patients and their patients’ continuity of care," the statement continues. "This was done without consumer complaints and against the trend in health care to better coordinate care to reduce costs. Having the ability for physicians to work hand-in-hand with physical therapists allows timely and coordinated access to care for patients."
Read our original story, "Doctor-Run Physical Therapy Clinic Scutinized. "