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September 20, 2016

South Carolina Supreme Court Overturns Ban on Integrated Care

Washington, DC—The American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) applauds the recent decision by the South Carolina Supreme Court supporting integration of physical therapy (PT) and physician services. In Joseph v. South Carolina Department of Labor, the court overturned a previous ruling and agreed with arguments that physician practices should be able to employ physical therapists. This result, after a decade long fight, could have national implications on the ability of physicians to own ancillary services and is a major victory for patient care.
“Not only did the court overturn the ban on physician-owned physical therapy, the Chief Justice in South Carolina sharply critiqued their prior interpretation as allowing ‘anti-competitive protectionist legislation’ that ‘deprives physicians of their right to practice medicine in the best interests of their patients',” said AAOS President Gerald R. Williams, Jr., MD. “The AAOS has fought the ban on integrated care delivery in South Carolina for the last decade and will continue to fight for orthopaedic patients in order to ensure access to the highest quality care.”

Two orthopaedic surgeons and a physical therapist, with the support of the South Carolina Orthopaedic Association (SCOA), sued the South Carolina Chapter of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) and the State of South Carolina over the law that banned the employment of a physical therapist by a physician. In the court opinion, Chief Justice Jean H. Toal also argued for the majority that the law violates a physical therapists’ constitutional rights to equal protection and due process by allowing a PT to be employed by another PT but not allowing PTs to be employed by a physician. This ruling will greatly impact the AAOS’ ability to argue that campaigns against integrated care are anti-competitive and protectionist while hurting patient access by fracturing the health care system.

AAOS has previously issued a position statement that reads, in part, "The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) believes that physical therapy is integral to providing high quality care for musculoskeletal disease and injury. Orthopaedic surgeons are best qualified to prescribe clinical and cost-effective use of this service."

Read the complete position statement online here.

Follow the AAOS Office of Government Relations on Twitter: @AAOSAdvocacy
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