Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Physician assistants and some doctors urge lawmakers to pass bill that could ease provider shortage in rural Kentucky

Doctors and more than 150 physician-assistant students urged lawmakers Tuesday to pass a bill they stated involves dropping only one requirement in the law and could ease a physician shortage in Kentucky, reports Ryan Nick of cn|2's "Pure Politics."

Passage of Senate Bill 43 would repeal a law that allows physician assistants to treat patients only when a supervising physician is on site for the first 18 months after their certification. If passed, PAs would still be supervised but would be permitted to perform services in a location separate from the supervising physician, as long as that physician can be reached by phone at all times.

No other state requires PAs to have 18 months of on-site supervision. Colorado, the state with the next-longest mandate, requires supervision only for the first 1,000 hours after certification.

The bill's supporters say the burdensome supervision requirement has led to 55 out of Kentucky's 120 counties being medically underserved and has encouraged many PAs to practice in other states, reports Storm. They also say this rule needlessly complicates patient care, especially in rural areas where doctors are stretched thin, reports Melinda Beck of The Wall Street Journal.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville, told Kentucky Health News that he expects the Kentucky Medical Association to seek some changes in the bill, but also expects it to pass because Senate Republican leaders, hospitals and universities support it. "We're educating these PAs at a lot of state expense just to work in other states," he said. House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, told Storm he sees no reason why the bill shouldn't pass. Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville, chair of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, told KHN that she supports the bill.

PAs are expected to be in even greater demand when the health-care reform law brings hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians into the health-insurance system. Beck notes the state is expected to face a greater shortage of physicians, particularly in primary care and rural areas. Buford said, "We're going to provide all this health care for everybody, and there's nobody to go see." For more from cn|2, including video interviews, click here.

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