Given the shortage of physicians and the ever increasing demand for medical services, many physicians depend heavily on physician assistants (PAs) to provide care within their practice. But PAs across the country are running into a problem: they are the only Medicare-eligible health professionals not paid directly by Medicare for the services they provide.
Which is why Alabama-Democrat, 7th District U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell reached across the aisle to Nebraska-Republican, 3rd District U.S. Rep. Adrian Smith to propose a solution.
Their answer: H.R. 5506: the Physician Assistant Direct Payment Act. The bill would amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to provide for direct payment to physician assistants under the Medicare program for certain services furnished by such physician assistants.
“In many communities across the country, including many in my district, medical professional shortages threaten healthcare access and quality. We know that there is tremendous need for more primary care providers in rural areas today and that this need will only grow during the next decade,” explained Sewell. “Our Medicare payment policies must eliminate any barriers that stand in the way of our ability to attract qualified medical talent to rural and underserved areas, including both physician and non-physician providers, such as physician assistants.”
Sewell believes H.R. 5506 is a “step forward” in Congress’ overall work to improve access to quality healthcare in rural areas.
“Rural communities, like many in Nebraska’s Third District, continue to lack the variety of healthcare options afforded to other areas of the country,” added Smith. “This narrowly-targeted, bipartisan solution repeals a burdensome regulation which disincentivizes the hiring of physician assistants. At present, Medicare payments to PAs must pass through a third party medical practice, which is an unnecessary and bureaucratic step. This bill will improve access to care in rural communities without impacting the scope of practice, education, or licensing requirements for PAs.”
H.R. 5506 has been referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and in addition to the Committee on Ways and Means.