INDIANAPOLIS ― Recent legislative sessions in state legislative houses across the country have yielded progress toward codifying optimal team practice (OTP) into state law. That’s according to Phil Bongiorno, BA, senior vice president of advocacy and government relations at the American Academy of Physician Associates (AAPA), who spoke at the group’s annual meeting this week.
OTP refers to the AAPA’s goal of improving patient access to care and lessening administrative obligations by eliminating the legal requirement that there be a specific relationship between a PA, physician, or any other healthcare provider. This would allow a PA to practice to the full extent of their education, training, and experience, Bongiorno said.
The second tenet of OTP is to persuade states to create a separate majority PA board to regulate PAs. An alternative to this would be for states to add PAs and physicians who work with PAs to their medical or healing arts boards, he said.
Third, in an OTP environment, each state would authorize PAs to be eligible for direct payment by all public and private insurers. “We have seen that development at the federal level, as far as Medicare is concerned,” Bongiorno said. “Now, we’re focusing on making that happen in the individual states as well.”
According to Bongiorno, this year’s state advocacy priorities are to pursue new legislation in additional states, even as efforts continue to persuade state legislatures to act on carryover bills from the previous legislative session.
Bongiorno briefly summarized what he called “OTP successes” from 2021:
Federal government: Authorized direct payment to PAs under Medicare
Arkansas, Delaware, Illinois, Pennsylvania: Added one or more PAs to their medical boards
Florida, Utah: Approved direct payment to PAs
Tennessee, Wisconsin: Created a separate PA review board
Utah, Wisconsin: Removed the relationship/agreement requirement (Wisconsin now requires 10,000 hours of practice to remove the relationship requirement)
North Central Region
In Colorado, House Bill 1095 (HB1095) would have removed requirements for a legal relationship between a PA and a physician. Initially that would have happened after 3000 hours of practice, although changing that to 5000 hours has been a compromise measure. PAs changing specialties must collaborate for 2000 hours, now negotiated to 3000 hours.
HB1095 ultimately was not successful last year or this year, said Erika Miller, director of state advocacy and outreach for the AAPA. “But we do see it as a success because in the 2022 session, we managed to get it passed in committee by a 10-to-1 vote,” she said. “It then moved to the full house and was not successful there.”
Miller said that South Dakota Senate Bill 134 would have removed the requirement for a legal PA/physician relationship after 1040 hours, which is the requirement for nurse practitioners. “South Dakota had introduced similar legislation the year before, but also like Colorado, they went from not getting out of committee last year to making it to the senate floor this time,” she said.
In Wisconsin, the new PA-affiliated credentialing board began on April 1. It gives PAs the authority to license, discipline, and write regulations, Miller said.
South Central Region
Arizona Senate Bill 1367 included direct pay, removed the relationship tether with a physician, and made each PA fully responsible for the care they provide. “The bill passed out of committee successfully but did not make it to a vote due to unexpected struggles between the Arizona medical society and PA chapter,” said Shannon Morey, senior director of state advocacy and outreach at the AAPA. “They are ready to go again next year.”
In Louisiana, Senate Bill 158 is a “strong” bill that addressed all the desired aspects of OTP, Morey said; “The legislation stands subject to call on the Senate floor, but it has been killed by the sponsor.”
Massachusetts Senate Bill 740 (S740) would remove the legal tether between PA and physician, said Carson Walker, senior director of state advocacy and outreach at the AAPA. “The committee decided to extend its time in committee until June,” he said. “By next month, we expect that the committee will schedule a hearing that includes S740, and we fully plan on submitting testimony.”
In New York, Senate Bill 9233 (S9233) would remove physician supervision after 3600 hours of practice.
“Just about 10 days ago, sponsors were able to have S9233 introduced, which is the most succinct and, I think, the most effective OTP bill I have ever seen,” Walker said.
“S9233 says that after 3600 hours a PA can practice without the supervision of a physician, and that’s all. There’s not a lot of time left in this session, but we are hopeful that it lays the groundwork for success next year.”
New Hampshire Senate Bill 228 has passed the legislature and is awaiting the governor’s signature. It will allow direct payment, make PAs responsible for the care they provide, and shift the physician-PA relationship from supervision to collaboration, Walker said.
Stephanie Radix, senior director of state advocacy and outreach at the AAPA, discussed North Carolina’s Senate Bill 345, which passed the Senate unanimously in 2021 and has been carried over to this year’s session. The bill defines team-based settings, eliminates the relationship tether, and establishes a supervised career entry interval of 4000 clinical hours in the state.
The legislature is slated to adjourn June 30, Radix said: “We are very hopeful that we will get it across the finish line.”
In an interview with Medscape Medical News, Bongiorno said that the AAPA’s overall advocacy progress is as expected.
“Optimal team practice is about allowing each practice to make that determination on how the team should work as a true collaboration,” he said. “The bottom line is that OTP would allow us to reach more patients, serve the community, and ensure that people are able to get healthcare, especially in underserved areas.”