Illinois’ PAtients First! Legislation Will Update and Streamline PA Practice
2021 PAtients First! Sponsors
PAtients First! is 2021 Illinois legislation — Senate Bill 145 and House Bill 1826 — sponsored by Deputy Senate Majority Leader Laura Murphy, and Assistant House Democratic Leader Kathleen Willis.
COVID-19 has created unprecedented healthcare challenges for Illinoisans
Since 2020, more than a million Illinoisans have contracted COVID-19, and upwards of 20,000 have died. As we battle the deadly pandemic, some Illinoisans are also finding it increasingly difficult to get care for diseases like cancer, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, post-COVID-related illnesses, and mental health and behavioral issues arising from the pandemic, sheltering in place, and economic downturn. It’s clear that Illinoisans are facing an unprecedented and increasing need for more access to healthcare.
Physician Assistants (PAs) are helping Illinois meet healthcare challenges
Physician Assistants (PAs) have helped fill the need for quality health care in Illinois. Working in emergency rooms and intensive care units, acting as primary care providers, staffing hospitals, and providing in-person and telemedicine health care across the state, PAs have worked long hours and put their own health at risk, all while navigating increasingly politicized and hostile public sentiments about the virus.
Physician Assistants face unnecessary laws and burdensome paperwork in Illinois
At the same time, PAs have the added burden of working under seriously outdated practice laws, unnecessary bureaucracy, and burdensome paperwork. As a result, Illinois is finding it more difficult to recruit PAs to the state, and is even is losing some PAs to out-of-state jobs!
- During COVID, the Governor’s executive order allows PAs to practice without a specific collaborative agreement and it has allowed PAs to use their extensive medical training to assist in other practice areas and provide critical care.
- Southern Illinois University, which supports the bills, indicates that for the first time ever, some PAs from the last two years of graduates have had difficulty finding jobs, while similarly qualified nurse practitioners nearly tripled in Illinois.
- HHS data shows that Illinois’ distribution of PAs to population is relatively low – in the range of 17-37 PAs per 100,000 working-age residents. This is lower than several of the surrounding states, including WI, MI, IA, and MN.
PAtients First! eliminates patient care barriers for PAs and their collaborating physicians:
- Eliminates required department notifications and specific “written” agreements. However, PAs will still need to collaborate with physicians in order to practice. This is NOT independent practice!
- Scope of practice determined at the practice level by the PA’s individual education, training and experience.
- Allows PAs to have a seat at the table in front of state regulators and self-govern the profession.
What other states have done:
- Minnesota: Removed requirement that a PA collaborate with a specific physician after 2,080 hours of practice experience, at which point they enter into a practice agreement with their employer.
- Rhode Island: Removed the requirement that a PA have a practice agreement or delegation agreement with a physician.
- West Virginia: Removed the requirement for a specific collaborating physician in hospital settings (affects 50% of PAs in the state). They already had two PAs on the medical board.
- North Dakota: Removed legal tie to physician (including practice agreement) for all PAs except PAs with fewer than 4,000 practice hours who own their own practice. They already had a PA on the medical board.
- Maine: Removed the requirement that a PA have a written agreement with a physician after 4,000 hours of practice experience.
- Michigan, Iowa, Arizona, California, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Utah & Texas: All states with their own PA Medical Boards that regulate the PA profession.