Improved Practice Laws Sweep 42 States and DC to Bridge Healthcare Gaps

States Modernizing PA Practice Laws to Increase Access to Quality Care, According to AAPA

Feb 12, 2014, 06:00 ET from American Academy of Physician Assistants

ALEXANDRIA, Va., Feb. 12, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As millions of new patients enter the U.S. healthcare system under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), state lawmakers are working quickly to modernize physician assistant (PA) practice laws to increase access to quality healthcare and reduce patient wait times.

In 2013, 42 states and the District of Columbia adopted 109 such laws or regulation changes. While every victory has its own unique story, commonalities include authorizing expansion of the PA role, repealing barriers to effective PA practice and recognizing of the value of PAs.

Similarly, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA)—the largest U.S. healthcare system employing PAs—recently issued a revised directive designed to enhance utilization of PAs while continuing to embrace a patient-centered, team-based approach to medicine. The updated scope of practice language in the directive authorizes PAs to practice medicine within defined levels of autonomy and exercise autonomous medical decision-making.

"Although we are greatly encouraged by recent progress made by state legislators and the VHA, we still have a lot of work to do. We must remove any antiquated laws at the federal and state levels that impede PAs' ability to practice medicine," said AAPA President Lawrence Herman, PA-C, MPA, DFAAPA. "It's critical that every state modernize their PA laws so that patients can have immediate access to the quality healthcare services they need."

PAs practice in all medical and surgical settings and specialties, including family medicine, primary care, emergency medicine, surgery, oncology, psychiatry, radiology, pediatrics and more. New research shows that the average PA will practice in two or three different specialties throughout his or her career, making PAs the most flexible and dynamic health professional practicing medicine today. As part of that care, a typical PA will treat 3,500 patients in a year, and write as many as 5,200 prescriptions.

"By design, PAs and physicians work together as a team. In fact, PAs are often educated side by side with physicians via an intense graduate-level medical program," Herman explained. "A team-based, collaborative model of delivering healthcare allows patients to have greater interaction with and exposure to healthcare providers, and it extends the reach of medical care to more people. As PAs prove their worth in every setting and specialty, smart state and federal legislators are seeing value in expanding the PA role."

Additional legislation in progress already this year will likely continue the sea change of support for the PA profession:

  • In Michigan, Senate Bill 568 updates key sections of the state's public health code and creates a patient care board of medical providers, which includes PAs. The bill modernizes how medicine is regulated in the state and focuses on a patient-centered model of care.
  • New Jersey Assembly Bill 1950 authorizes a PA's scope of practice to be determined at the clinical setting, between physicians and PAs, and modernizes licensure requirements.
  • A collaborative effort in West Virginia between the state Board of Medicine, West Virginia Association of PAs and AAPA has resulted in the introduction of House Bill 4289. The bill was a year in the making and seeks to clarify the definition of PAs by making it clear that they practice medicine. It also increases the number of PAs with whom a physician may practice from three to five.

These bills provide other improvements to PA practice not listed above, and there are several other states modernizing PA practice in other ways.

For more information, contact Patrick Dunne, AAPA senior manager of communications, media relations and social media, at 571-319-4394 or

About the American Academy of Physician Assistants
Founded in 1968, the American Academy of Physician Assistants is the national professional society for PAs. It represents a profession of more than 95,000 certified PAs across all medical and surgical specialties in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the majority of the U.S. territories and within the uniformed services. AAPA advocates and educates on behalf of the profession and the patients PAs serve. It works to ensure the professional growth, personal excellence and recognition of PAs and to enhance their ability to improve the quality, accessibility and cost-effectiveness of patient-centered healthcare. Visit and to learn more.

SOURCE American Academy of Physician Assistants