Image of an older women with walker in long-term care setting interacting with healthcare provider

One health organization is celebrating the introduction this week of the Stopping Addiction and Falls for the Elderly (SAFE) Act. 

The Alliance for Physical Therapy Quality and Innovation (APTQI) praised Representatives Carol Miller (R-WV) and Melanie Stansbury (D-NM) for introducing the bill, which would include a falls assessment provided by a physical therapy or occupational therapist as part of a Medicare beneficiary’s annual wellness visit. The legislation also would include initial preventive physical exams to target techniques to prevent falls. 

Currently, Medicare doesn’t cover the falls risk evaluations or prevention services.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that there will be more than 52 million annual falls among older adults in America by 2030.

“The SAFE Act is an investment in the health and well-being of our growing senior population, promising not only to enhance the quality of life for countless individuals but also to generate significant Medicare savings,” Nikesh Patel, PT, executive director of APTQI, said in a statement released Wednesday. “By integrating physical and occupational therapy into Medicare wellness visits, we can provide our seniors with the proactive, preventative care they need to live safely and independently, in addition to reducing opioid prescriptions and subsequential overdose rates among older Americans.”

Physical therapy is a useful tool that can help people prevent falls. Older adults who use it are less likely to be hospitalized or go to the emergency room and are also less likely to turn to opioid drugs for pain, APTQI said in their statement.

APTQI is urging lawmakers and public health leaders to support the SAFE Act because the organization said the bill has the potential to prevent injuries, save lives and cut  healthcare spending. 

“APTQI is committed to working alongside Congress, healthcare providers, and the community to ensure the successful passage and implementation of this critical legislation,” Patel said.