This week, the Wisconsin Assembly voted to pass the Collaboration and Rural Expansion of Services (CARES) Act (AB 575), which would update Wisconsin statutes related to physician assistants (PAs). The bill seeks to reduce workforce barriers for PAs, thus maintaining and increasing access to high quality medical care, particularly in underserved rural areas of the state. Patient safety standards would remain unchanged.
Over 2,700 PAs practice in Wisconsin, working with physicians to provide quality, cost effective team-based care to patients across the state. PAs practice in every area of medicine performing activities such as physical exams, diagnosing and treating illnesses, assisting in surgery, and prescribing medication. The CARES Act allows PAs to practice to the full extent of their education, experience and training and would allow their employers greater flexibility in how they are managed and overseen.
Wisconsin Academy of Physician Assistants (WAPA) is advocating for the legislation to update their profession and worked with the Wisconsin Medical Society and other physician associations to reach a compromise on physician oversight provisions in the bill.
The CARES Act would allow more flexibility at the practice site for physicians and PAs by changing the PA/physician relationship from “supervision” to “collaboration.” Collaboration would be required to take the form of either a written collaborative agreement between a PA and a physician or the PA would practice under the overall direction and management of a physician. (The bill would NOT create independent PA practice nor would it change PAs’ scope of practice.) The bill also eliminates the one-to-four physician-to-PA ratio under current law. Additionally, the bill creates a Medical Examining Board-affiliated PA Examining Board, giving PAs regulatory authority over their own profession. PAs are currently regulated by the Medical Examining Board.
After passing the Assembly on a bipartisan voice vote on Feb. 18, the bill is eligible for a vote when the Senate meets next, likely in March.
For more information on the CARES Act, visit https://yourpacan.org/wisconsin/.