Legislation seeking to expand the scope of practice for physician assistants is on to its final committee after facing several adjustments Thursday.
The bill (SB 894), brought by Miami-Dade Republican Sen. Manny Diaz, cleared the Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee in a unanimous vote after undergoing a bit of a makeover.
The original bill defined the scope of practice for a physician assistant to include diagnosing illnesses, developing and managing treatment plans, performing medical procedures and prescribing and dispensing medications.
The initial bill also sought to allow physician assistants to practice without oversight, but was altered in its first committee to instead just remove the current limitation on the number of physician assistants a doctor could supervise. Current law limits the number of physician assistants a doctor can supervise to four.
However, in addressing concerns brought by lawmakers in the bill’s first committee hearing, Diaz presented an amendment that specified guidelines and offered more criteria.
“This has been a work product of coordination between the physician assistants, the FMA (Florida Medical Association) and other stakeholders,” Diaz said about the amendment.
The approved strike-all amendment limits the number physician assistants that a physician can supervise to 10.
The strike all also provided more specifications around the types of prescriptions a physician assistant can write. It authorizes physician assistants to prescribe a 14 day supply of certain psychiatric drugs for minors, but only under the direct supervising pediatrician, family practice physician or psychiatrist. It also excludes such personnel from authenticating medical marijuana certifications.
For prescriptions written by physician assistants, the assistant’s name, address and telephone number would be required to appear on the prescription, as well as the name of the supervising physician.
In addition to the changes provided by the amendment, the bill would also expand the role of physician assistants by allowing them to procure certain medical equipment and devices and supervise medical assistants. They would also be authorized to sign and certify documents that currently require a physician’s signature, such as Baker Act commitments, do-not-resuscitate orders, school physicals and death certificates.
“I think we’re trying to strike the right balance here where its updated, where we haven’t put a cap on this, and we feel like we’re getting to a product that everybody feels comfortable with,” Diaz said.
A similar House bill (HB 431) has cleared all its committees and is headed to the House floor.