Washington Supreme Court Favors Physician Ownership of Physical Therapy Practices

The Washington Supreme Court recently handed down a unanimous decision in favor of the legal arguments advocated in my, amicus curie brief submitted on behalf of the American Medical Association, the Washington State Medical Association, and approximately twenty other medical societies in the Columbia Physical Therapy v. Benton Franklin Orthopedic Associates, et al case.

In the case, Columbia Physical Therapy argued that it was unlawful for a physician group practice to employ physical therapists and offer physical therapy services to its patients under the corporate practice of medicine doctrine, the Washington Professional Service Corporation Act (WPSCA), and the Washington Anti-Rebate Statute, and that such practice violated the Consumer Protection Act (CPA). The Washington Supreme Court disagreed, holding that physical therapy is within the physicians’ authorized scope of practice of medicine and therefore a physician group practice’s offering of physical therapy services is not a violation of the corporate practice of medicine doctrine or the WPSCA.

The Court further found that, under the exemption for charging and collecting for professional services provided by one’s own partners and employees set forth in RCW 19.68.040, a physician group practice’s provision of physical therapy services through its employed physical therapists did not violate the Anti-Rebate Statute.

Finally, the Court held that any possible deception triggering a CPA violation was a question of fact to be determined by a jury.

Kristi O’Brien is an experienced attorney providing business transactions and health law advice to MPBA clients.