Blog Post: January 4th, 2021

By Matt Wanderscheid, Doctor of Physical Therapy

This is a question that we get asked daily, so I thought I’d take advantage of our new blog to help clarify this question. As with most things, there is no clear cut answer, but I will do my best!

Iowa, like the majority of US states, does NOT require a physician referral to be seen for physical therapy services. This is known as “direct access” and is something that most people can take advantage of to save time and money getting the help they need. If this is a surprise to you, don’t worry… It is to most people.

The professions of physical therapy and occupational therapy have progressed greatly over the last decade, and part of that progression was the change from obtaining a bachelor’s degree, to a master’s degree, and now to a doctorate degree. This is to ensure patient safety when coming to physical therapy without a referral. That means, if we see an issue that we can help with, we help! If we see an issue is something out of our specialty areas of joint, muscle, and nerve, we make recommendations on the next steps to take.

The thing that might make a difference in your ability to come to physical or occupational therapy without a referral is your insurance. Commercial insurances such as Blue Cross Blue Shield and United Health Care typically cover physical therapy visits via direct access without a physician’s referral. Medicare (contradictory to popular belief) also allows for direct access! We see a lot of people use direct access regularly as a way of saving time and money to get the help they need. There are a few outliers that have different authorization requirements, including the Veteran’s Administration and worker’s compensation. We still see a lot of patients through both, but these do require a referral in most cases. 

Here’s my recommendation: If you have any questions on if you or someone you know needs a referral to come see us, simply call our office or send us an email, and we would be happy to check with your insurance carrier for you! Visit our locations page for a list of clinic numbers, and call the one closest and most convenient for you! Ultimately, we want to make sure you get the care you need as quickly as possible, so we will always do what we can to help. Whether that means we can help you ourselves or we feel the need to refer you to someone else, we will take care of you!