Bills Introduced To Expand Scope of Practice for Non-Physicians
California Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) has introduced a set of bills that would expand the scope of practice for non-physicians to address a shortage of doctors in the state, the Sacramento Bee reports (Rosenhall, Sacramento Bee, 3/14).
The Los Angeles Times reports that only 16 of the state's 58 counties have the supply of physicians recommended by the federal government.
In addition, the Association of American Medical Colleges says that nearly 30% of California's doctors are nearing retirement age.
Meanwhile, the state is preparing to expand Medi-Cal and require most residents to have health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program (California Healthline, 2/11).
Details of the Bills
Although the details of the bills have not yet been finalized, nurse practitioners are seeking authority to establish independent practices. Meanwhile, optometrists and pharmacists want to be designated as primary care providers so that they can diagnose and treat patients with certain chronic conditions, such as diabetes (Mishak, "PolitiCal," Los Angeles Times, 3/13).
Meanwhile, Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) has developed a separate bill (SB 352) that would expand the scope of practice for physician assistants.
Comments on Bills
Hernandez --Â who isÂ an optometrist -- said that nearly five million state residents who do not have health insurance likely will obtain it next year under the ACA. He said, "How is it that we're going to be requiring somebody to purchase health insurance, but yet they won't have access to a doctor? This is what we need to address" (Sacramento Bee, 3/14).
Hernandez added, "[W]e have to realize that there are health professionals that are educated, provide care and provide it safely and can fill that provider gap" ("PolitiCal," Los Angeles Times, 3/13).
However, Molly Weedn -- a spokesperson for the California Medical Association -- said that the organization is concerned about patient safety if the state expands non-physicians' scope of practice.
She said, "These allied health professionals definitely play a very important role in the health care delivery system," adding, "But doctors are highly trained professionals who have been taught to diagnose and treat their patients" (Sacramento Bee, 3/14).
Broadcast CoverageOn Wednesday, Capital Public Radio's "KXJZ News" reported on the bills to expand non-physicians' scope of practice (Bartolone, "KXJZ News," Capital Public Radio, 3/13). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.