More States Look to Physician Assistants to Bridge Gaps in Care

September 27, 2013

Legislation in three states is changing the way physician assistants interact with physicians and patients.

Open enrollment in health insurance marketplaces begins Oct. 1. As states face an influx of newly insured patients amid the physician shortage, many are looking to physician assistants (PAs) to bridge the gaps.

In fact, since June 2012, more than 40 states have made changes to their PA practice requirements.

"We are up to the challenge," AAPA President Lawrence Herman said during a recent AAPA press briefing. "As a direct result of our broad medical education ... PAs can be immediately responsive to changing healthcare needs and have flexibility in the types of medicine that we can practice."

Here's a closer look at some of the current and pending legislation that is changing (and could change) the way physician assistants interact with their patients and with their physician partners.

For more on what's happening in other states, click here.

Missouri. Missouri recently eased its PA supervision requirements. Previously, physicians had to practice in the same location as a PA 66 percent of the time a PA practiced. Now, physician-PA teams are only required to practice in the same physical location for one half-day every 14 days a PA practices.

"These are the kind of benefits that will give patients an easier time to get appointments," said Paul Winter, president of the Missouri Academy of Physician Assistants, who participated in the briefing.

Texas. Texas recently enhanced the prescriptive authority of PAs (physicians can now delegate authority to physician assistants to prescribe Schedule II controlled substances in hospital and hospice settings), and the state removed laws governing physician oversight of PA practice (including removing physician supervision distance limitations).

"... By and large this [legislative] session here in Texas is being considered the most successful session in many years for PAs and nurse practitioners," said Karrie Lynn Crosby, president of the Texas Academy of Physician Assistants, who participated in the briefing.

New Jersey. New Jersey legislators recently introduced bills to expand and modernize PA practice statewide.

One of the primary goals of current legislation is to enable supervising physicians to determine PA scope of practice. Decisions would be based on things like that particular practice, specialty, population, and community, said Ryan White, president of the New Jersey State Society of Physician Assistants, who participated in the briefing.

Currently, New Jersey limits PA scope of practice to 19 medical services, which is one of the most restrictive limits in the country.

What do you think of the current and pending PA scope of practice legislation?