The state House has agreed to go along with Senate amendments to two bills sponsored by Rep. Harry Readshaw, D-Carrick, designed to make medical care more accessible and less costly for Pennsylvanians.
The votes on both bills were unanimous.
The measures (H.Bs. 1251, 1252) would allow the number of physician assistants working under the supervision of a physician to be increased from two to four. The increase is expected to make health care, including preventative medicine, more accessible in underserved rural and urban areas of the state and to alleviate the burden of minor emergencies that greatly increase the costs of operating emergency facilities.
The bills are components of Gov. Ed Rendell's Prescription for Pennsylvania health-care initiative to make medical care less costly and more accessible and convenient.
The second round of House action was made necessary when the Senate made minor technical amendments to the measures.
”It is neither cost-effective nor practical to have highly trained emergency room physicians tied up on minor procedures like pulling a splinter or diagnosing a sore throat when there is a backlog of emergency patients, some of them likely with more serious injuries or illnesses,” Rep. Readshaw said.
”The use of physician assistants would help hospitals deal with people who seek treatment of everyday medical issues in the emergency room because they have no health insurance and can't get in to see a general practitioner through an office visit.
”Ultimately, the burden falls back on the hospital medical insurance providers, employers and taxpayers.”
Mr. Readshaw added that in rural or urban areas where there may be a shortage of available general or family practitioners, physician assistants could step in to provide preventative medical care and routine health screening.
The governor is expected to sign both bills into law.