OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma House passed legislation Wednesday that allows physical therapists to treat ailments without a prior referral from a doctor or other medical professional.
The House voted 68-21 for the legislation and sent it to the state Senate, where similar legislation is being considered.
The bill removes restrictions in current state law that require a doctor or other medical professional, such as a dentist or podiatrist, to refer a patient before a physical therapist can diagnosis and treat an ailment.
Rep. Arthur Hulbert, R-Fort Gibson, the bill's author and himself a physical therapist, said allowing physical therapists to treat human ailments without referrals would lead to fewer unnecessary physician visits and help lower health care costs. Hulbert said 48 other states already have some form of direct access to physical therapists without physician referrals.
Opponents said physical therapists need physician oversight because they do not have the same level of education and training to reliably diagnose a patient's disorder.
"You might have a pain in your arm and have a heart attack and think it's just a pulled muscle," said Rep. Pam Peterson, R-Tulsa, whose husband is a physician.
Physical therapists are an important part of the medical team that includes a variety of allied health professionals, she said.
"But they are not the captain of the ship," Peterson said. "They're not trained to discover cancer."