Skip to Main Content

We have a new app!

Take the Access library with you wherever you go—easy access to books, videos, images, podcasts, personalized features, and more.

Download the Access App here: iOS and Android



At the completion of this chapter, the reader will be able to:

  1. Describe how the laws, regulations, and policies affect the practice of physical therapy

  2. Describe the various methods of insurance reimbursements for healthcare services

  3. List the challenges associated with obtaining appropriate access to healthcare within the United States

  4. Describe the various associations and organizations that regulate the quality of healthcare

  5. Define malpractice and provide examples of patient negligence

  6. Describe the impact of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997

  7. Have a good understanding of patient rights within the healthcare system

  8. Describe how the Health Insurance and Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is designed to protect a patient’s privacy

  9. Discuss the various legislation that protects a patient within the healthcare system

  10. Describe the importance of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and its impact on society

  11. List some of the safety considerations of the home and work environments


Over the years, several federal and state laws and regulations have been introduced to protect the public from safety issues, prevent medical fraud, and control reimbursement. There exists a paradox of excess and deprivation in the healthcare system of the United States, in which some individuals are deprived of adequate care because they cannot afford suitable insurance, while others receive an excess of care that is expensive and unnecessary. Healthcare in the United States encompasses a wide spectrum, ranging from the highest quality, most compassionate treatment of those with complex illnesses and well-designed protocols for preventing illness to inappropriate high-risk surgical procedures performed on uninformed patients.1 For the physical therapist assistant (PTA), embarking on a healthcare career, understanding how healthcare works, including its strengths and inadequacies, is essential.


Law: A rule, or system of rules, conduct, or action established by a country or community that regulates the actions of its members and which can be enforced by the imposition of penalties.

Statute: A law passed by a legislature. Statutes impacting the practice of physical therapy can be passed at the federal level (federal statutes) by Congress (see Federal Statutes) or at the state level (state statutes). An example of a state statute is the state Physical Therapy Practice Act, which controls the scope and protection of physical therapy practice.

Policy: A proposed set of ideas or plans that describe a course or principle of action to be taken on a particular issue

Practice act: A physical therapy practice act is a statute defining the scope and practice of physical therapy within the jurisdiction, outlining licensing requirements, and establishing penalties for violating the law.

Regulation: A rule of order prescribed by a superior or competent authority, typically by various federal government departments and agencies with the force of law. Most commonly, at the state level, regulations give further definition to terms in the statutes. Examples of federal agencies that produce regulations ...

Pop-up div Successfully Displayed

This div only appears when the trigger link is hovered over. Otherwise it is hidden from view.