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KAPA Issue Brief: Coming Up Short Kentucky Laws Restrict Deployment of Physician Assistants, and Access to High-Quality Health Care for Kentuckians

In conjunction with National PA Week (October 6-12, 2014), The Kentucky Academy of Physician Assistants (KAPA) released an issue brief, “Coming Up Short: Kentucky Laws Restrict Deployment of Physician Assistants, and Access to High-quality Health Care for Kentuckians,” which highlights the need for Kentucky lawmakers to allow physicians greater discretion with regard to the number of physician assistants (PAs) that they oversee in their practices.

Today, Kentucky law limits the number of PAs being supervised at any given time to only two (2), regardless of circumstance or practice setting. Meanwhile, Kentucky spends more per capita on healthcare than other southern states, while charting patient outcomes that are far worse than almost every state in the union. In fact, Kentucky carries among the highest rates of diabetes, obesity and heart disease. Mississippi is the only state with a higher rate of cancer. Kentucky is among only eight states to limit physician discretion and supervision oversight to this degree. KAPA is calling on Kentucky lawmakers to act to amend the law so that PAs can be more effectively deployed to help provide much needed care for citizens throughout the Commonwealth.

“Kentuckians deserve the same access to safe, efficient, high-quality care that most Americans already have,” said KAPA President Kristi Hall, PA-C. “We look forward to working with our legislators in the 2015 session to bring Kentucky’s archaic laws in line with today’s best practices.”

KAPA is committed to a physician-led teamundefinedand to physician discretion with regard to establishing and overseeing team-based care in their practices. The movement toward outcome-based, patient-centered care requires the efficient deployment of every practitioner. Ensuring sufficient access to health care services in rural areas can be complicated, and the physician/PA team is a key component of rural health. In order to distribute PAs effectively, it is important to remove barriers to care, which include outdated laws and regulations.

“Our objective is to expedite the effective deployment of PAs as part of a physician-led team, so that they can fulfill their intended purpose to optimize both patient care and cost savings,” said Isaac Caton PA-C, KAPA Government Affairs Chair. “We are advocating for increased physician discretion, so that the number of PAs per physician can be thoughtfully determined based on the complexity of the patient mix, experience of the PA(s) and the needs of the practice.”

KAPA agrees with the American Medical Association (AMA), the American College of Physicians (ACP), the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) and the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) that the physician-to-PA ratio should be determined by each physician at the practice level, rather than prescribed by the state.

About Physician Assistants
Physician assistants are health care professionals licensed to practice medicine with physician supervision. PAs employed by the federal government are credentialed to practice. As part of their comprehensive responsibilities, PAs conduct physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests, counsel on preventive health care, assist in surgery, and in virtually all states can write prescriptions. Within the physician-PA relationship, physician assistants exercise autonomy in medical decision making and provide a broad range of diagnostic and therapeutic services. A PA's practice may also include education, research, and administrative services.

About the Kentucky Academy of Physician Assistants
The Kentucky Academy of Physician Assistants (KAPA) is a professional society that serves as the voice and advocate of PAs in Kentucky, KAPA provides continuing education and networking opportunities for its members and strengthens the role of PAs by supporting and encouraging membership in KAPA. For more information, visit www.kentuckypa.org and http://www.kentuckypa.org/resources/Documents/KAPAIssueBrief-ComingUpShort.pdf.

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