Expanded duties sought for physician assistants

LB772, introduced by Sen. Matt Williams of Gothenburg, would ease constraints on how a physician may delegate tasks to a physician assistant under his or her supervision if the PA has received education, training and experience related to the task.

Sen. Matt Williams
Sen. Matt Williams

The bill redefines a “supervising physician” as a licensed physician who supervises a physician assistant under a collaborative agreement, and “supervision” as the ready availability of the supervising physician for consultation and collaboration on the activities of a physician assistant.

The change would allow a physician assistant to serve under several specialists who may work at the same practice rather than solely under a single physician. A physician assistant also could render services in a setting that is geographically remote from the supervising physician.

Williams said the bill would lower health care costs and reduce administrative burdens by allowing individual practices to establish their own working agreements.

“Most of the action comes from striking sections of statute. This is done to lessen the statutory mandates related to PA-physician employment relationships,” Williams said.

Kurt Schmeckpeper, a member of Nebraska Academy of Physician Assistants, spoke in favor of the bill. He said LB772 would modernize state law.

“A lot has changed in the five decades that PAs have been in the health care scene in Nebraska,” Schmeckpeper said. “The proposed changes will reflect the true nature of PA’s practices.”

Also speaking in support was physician assistant Tamara Dolphens. She said the original conception of a physician assistant was someone working alongside a doctor, but “now practice has changed. We have physician groups; we have large medical organizations that hire multiple physicians and multiple PAs,” she said.

Dr. Robert Wergin, testifying on behalf of the Nebraska Medical Association, also supported LB772. He said that he has worked with physician assistants throughout his nearly 40-year career.

“The physician assistants I’ve worked with often have sought my input when patients present with complex medical problems as we develop treatment plans,” Wergin said. “This process has worked well for me.”

No one spoke in opposition to LB772 and the committee took no immediate action.

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