California Senator Addresses Physician Shortage Treatment Options

A bill granting nurse practitioners in California the ability to practice without physician supervision is being tested by the State Senate. Senator Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) introduced the bill in an effort to remove the treatment obstacles that nurse practitioners face.

The bill is one component of a bigger strategy addressing the physician shortages that the state is facing, partly as a result of the Affordable Care Act which which has successfully welcomed an additional 2.5 million state residents into the California healthcare system.

“We have a great need for primary care providers in predominantly rural and inner city communities,” said Hernandez. Currently only 16 out of 58 counties in the state have the suggested physician-to-patient ratio. The shortage is expected to worsen within the next decade as the United States faces a deficit of 12,000 – 31,000 primary care physicians.

The proposed bill will allow nurse practitioners to operate without supervision with the provision that they are in practice with a medical group.

The California Medical Association opposes the bill. The association, which represents physicians states “we are concerned that the changes proposed may undermine the delivery of patient-centered, team-based care in California.”

“Removing the physician from the room is a mistake. These are critical health decisions and you want these decisions made under the supervision of a qualified physician and to remove the physician from that process is going to reduce the quality of healthcare.” said CMA spokesman Jason Kinney.

The California Association of Nurse Practitioners supports the bill saying it will allow nurse practitioners to practice within the full scope of their training. Currently 20 other states have given nurse practitioners similar rights.

Sen. Hernandez argues that if the government requires every resident to have insurance “then we need to provide that care for those patients.”

The bill is Sen. Hernandez’s second attempt since 2013 to implement the new treatment standards.