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Dave & Dujanovic: Bill would free up physician’s assistants to play bigger role for patients

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SALT LAKE CITY — Physician’s assistants have stepped in during the pandemic to help doctors overwhelmed caring for the sick.

As of Thursday, there have been more than 300,000 cases of COVID-19 in Utah, with over 12,000 patients hospitalized.

But will PAs have to step back when the virus has been eradicated?

State Republican Sen. Curt Bramble wants to make sure they have more freedom to practice medicine in a post-pandemic world. The lawmaker joined Dave & Debbie on KSL Newsradio Thursday to discuss his bill that would allow PAs to continue working in a bigger role in patient care.

When President Donald Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act into law March 27 it authorized PAs to receive direct payment under Medicare.

“Right now for a PA to practice they have to have a supervising physician, but we’ve seen during COVID that quite often the PAs are practicing autonomously,” Bramble said. 

The state senator mentioned the case of a PA in a rural part of the state who meets directly with patients after the supervising physician died. The PA is struggling to provide care because of the bureaucratic requirements under the law, he said.

Physician’s assistants oversight remains in place

“We’ve seen through COVID that the data is clear that PAs are practicing competently,” Bramble said. “They are practicing within their skill level. Should this bill pass, there’s still a number of external forces that will have oversight. For example, the insurance companies will have to approve the PAs. They have a PA professional board they’re accountable to. Hospitals will still have to grant privileges. They’ll still have to qualify to be covered for malpractice. So all of those things tend to be checks and balances on the scope of practice that a PA may engage in.”

“Should I be worried about the quality of care because I’m not getting a quote-unquote real doctor?” Dave asked.

“Let’s put this in perspective. The military has allowed PAs to practice or not autonomously for decades,” Bramble said.

The senator said it’s reasonable to conclude that permitting PAs to practice more autonomously will allow greater access to health care for patients at a lower cost because they don’t bill the same as doctors.

Bramble added that several years ago, nurse practitioners were allowed to practice autonomously. 

“If you look at the patient outcomes, if you look at the data, if you look at the patient’s safety and access, it’s been a huge benefit to the health care system,” he said. 

 

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, a.s well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.