BOSTON, Mass. (WWLP) - Facing a shortage of primary care providers, nurse practitioners and physician assistants (PA's) are urging lawmakers to pass a bill that would include them in the definition of "provider."
"PA's are cheaper to educate," said Massachusetts Association of Physician Assistants spokesperson Heather Trafton. "We actually get paid less and we're able to provide around 80 to 90 percent of all primary care."
Advocates estimate that Massachusetts could save $4 to $8 billion over ten years by maximizing use of nurse practioners and physician assistants as primary care providers. For Tiffany Holt, a student at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy, she's ready for the challenge.
"You know I've been living in Western Mass since I was born in Northampton," said Holt. "The family-community type of living is how I like [it], so I want to be able to communicate with my patients and be kind of like that small town provider like I've had all my life."
But the Massachusetts Medical Society (MMS) opposes the bill, saying that it undermines the quality of our health care system. For example, in some instances, they say the legislation removes a patient's right to access a primary care physician if a generic provider lives closer, it allows providers to sign documents in lieu of physicians, and substitutes physicians with providers where they believe care from a physician would be more appropriate. While the MMS acknowledges the value of nurse practitioners and physician assistants, they view the legislation as a tactical way to increase their bargaining power with insurers and public payers.
"They have their issues with it, but we think that our reasoning for putting this bill together is stronger than their opposition," said Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez (D-Jamaica Plain), the lead sponsor of the bill. "The bill that I filed essentially allows for these professionals to work throughout the range of their licenses."