05 Aug 2 Things All DCs Must Do Before Traveling Across State Lines to Treat Athletes
Although Dr. Alan Sokoloff, DC, founder and owner of the Yalich Clinic Performance and Rehabilition, travels as team chiropractor for the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens and the University of Maryland, recently he went to another state for a sporting event that was a bit closer to his heart.
The destination was San Diego and the event was his daughter’s youth soccer national championships.
When he wasn’t cheering her on from the sidelines like any proud, supportive father would, “Dr. Sok” could be found treating other young athletes on his daughter’s team. Yet, prior to entry of some recent legislation, performing this action outside his home state of Maryland could have really put his practice—and his livelihood—at risk.
“I don’t think our profession realizes how big this was,” says Dr. Sok, referring to the fairly new Travel-to-Treat legislation.
However, prior to its entry, individual states had different laws about coverage from a legal and malpractice standpoint. This left chiropractors “rolling the dice on their license,” says Dr. Sok, because their insurance policies didn’t necessarily cover them outside state lines, even when traveling was part of their duty to the their team.
Yet, on October 5, 2018, the F.A.A. Reauthorization Act of 2018 became public law and Division A of this act—which is formally known as the ‘Sports Medicine Licensure Clarity Act of 2018,’ but is more commonly referred to as the Travel-to-Treat legislation—changed that.
It states, in part:
(a) In General.—In the case of a covered sports medicine professional who has in effect medical professional liability insurance coverage and provides in a secondary State covered medical services that are within the scope of practice of such professional in the primary State to an athlete or an athletic team (or a staff member of such an athlete or athletic team) pursuant to an agreement described in subsection (c)(4) with respect to such athlete or athletic team—
(1) such medical professional liability insurance coverage shall cover (subject to any related premium adjustments) such professional with respect to such covered medical services provided by the professional in the secondary State to such an individual or team as if such services were provided by such professional in the primary State to such an individual or team;
In simple terms, this legislation does two very important things says Dr. Sok. First, it protects DCs from a legal standpoint, enabling them to treat their athletes and teams as they normally would when on the road and still be covered by their malpractice insurance policy.
The second thing it does is perhaps even more important, says Dr. Sok, although it’s not something most people even think about. “It provides continuity of care to the athlete,” he explains.
Case in point: if you work with an athlete to enhance his or her healing or improve performance, what happens when you can’t provide treatment outside state lines? Another chiropractor has to step in or the athlete goes without.
Either way, this creates “a great disadvantage” says Dr. Sok because not only does each athlete require different treatments, but every chiropractor is different and every technique is different. Plus some athletes are superstitious, so changing their pre-game regimen can really throw them off.
While this law is great, “there are a couple things people can glance over and not realize,” says Dr. Sok. With this in mind, there are two things every DC must have when treating their athletes out of state.
2 Things DCs Must Have When Traveling to Treat
The first is knowledge of the other state’s laws as you must stay within the scope of practice of that state. “For example, some states don’t allow dry needling,” says Dr. Sok. So, even if your home state enables you to practice this service on your patients, you can’t do this procedure when traveling to the secondary state.
The second thing all DCs must have when practicing outside their home state is written proof that they’re acting in a professional capacity for that specific team. “If you’re the team chiropractor for a university, high school, or pro team and you don’t have a written agreement in advance with that team, then you’re not following the rules,” warns Dr. Sok.
“In order to treat across state lines, you have to have a written agreement or something that says that I’m the team chiropractor,” he adds. That’s why, before traveling for his daughter’s youth soccer team, Dr. Sok got something from the organization on their letterhead saying that he was their official team chiropractor. “This is something that gets missed frequently,” he says.
One More Thing…
One other thing to consider when traveling with athletes and/or teams is that your malpractice insurance policy may still require you to notify them when treating outside state lines, even though this legislation is in place.
Dr. Sok’s does, though they’ve “made it easy” to share this information he says. So, check with your individual malpractice carrier before just assuming that you’re good to go. This will protect you and your practice.
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