Physician Assistant Bill Advances

Feb 15, 2013

Physician Assistants Gather Outside Senate After Vote
Credit Stu Johnson / Weku News

Proposed changes in state law are designed to keep more Physician Assistants in Kentucky.  It allows for more leniency in their supervision.  Newly graduated Physician Assistants must currently work under the direct supervision of a medical doctor for a year and a half.  So, they can only work when “the Doctor is in.” As a result, Virginia Valentin with the Kentucky Physician Assistant Association says about half of P-A grads leave the commonwealth.

“Right now the law is for the first 18 months, P-A’s have to work under direct supervision of a physician, meaning the physician can’t take Friday afternoon off.  If they take Friday afternoon off, then the physician assistant can’t work.  This is the only state that does that,” said Valentin.

While the University of Kentucky is one of the older physician assistant programs in the country, Valentin says the state is home to only a thousand P-A’s.   Nationwide, there are some 100 thousand physician assistants. 

Under the state measure, doctors could supervise P-A’s over the telephone…reducing the need for face-to-face consultations. Jessamine County Senator Tom Buford ushered the changes through the state Senate.

“With the new health care reforms, with the additional of possibly three to four hundred recipients to Medicaid, we will need all the help that we can possibly achieve,” said Buford.

Pike County Senator Ray Jones was one of two lawmakers to cast no votes.  Jones believes direct doctor oversight of new physician assistants is still a good idea.

“And in many areas, a physician assistant may be the only health care provider.  But again, just because there may be a shortage in certain areas, doesn’t mean that we should pass legislation that potentially sacrifices the quality of care of those patients,” explained Jones.

House members now get a chance to review the bill.  If it becomes law, the changes would fully take affect in June of 2014.