The First Year of the Next Fifty Years for PAs

July 18, 2017

L. Gail Curtis, MPAS, PA-C, DFAAPA
President and Chair of the Board
L. Gail Curtis, MPAS, PA-C, DFAAPA

Dear Colleagues,

Over the weekend I had the pleasure of hosting my first AAPA Board of Directors meeting as AAPA’s president and chair, welcoming PAs whom I’m incredibly proud to serve alongside. On behalf of the entire Board, thank you for putting your faith in us to lead our profession forward in what will surely be a significant year: the first year of the next fifty years for PAs.

Modernizing Practice Laws and Regulations

Top of mind for everyone is this:  now that we have new policy and updated Guidelines for the State Regulation of PAs—what’s next? I’m pleased to say that things are moving along at a remarkable pace as AAPA takes the necessary steps to support constituent organizations that wish to pursue changes to their respective state laws and regulations. These changes will:

  • Emphasize PAs’ commitment to team practice with the degree of collaboration determined at the practice level;
  • Eliminate legal requirements for PAs to have a specific relationship with a physician in order to practice;
  • Create autonomous majority-PA boards to regulate PAs, or give that authority to healing arts or medical boards that have as members both PAs and physicians who practice with PAs;
  • And, authorize PAs to be directly reimbursed by all public and private insurers.

Not surprisingly, we have already heard from a handful of states that want to be among the first to implement the new policy. At the same time, we appreciate the willingness of other PAs to volunteer their time to update AAPA’s Model State Legislation.

I realize not every state is ready to pursue the changes outlined above and that’s okay. AAPA will continue to support chapters in all fifty states in achieving a wide spectrum of improvements to state laws and regulations to continue to move the profession forward. We know many of you have been making great strides in implementing the current model state legislation and Six Key Elements of Modern PA Practice. We have, and will continue to have, your back.

While we work hand-in-hand with states, AAPA is also pursuing changes to Medicare to not only remove physician supervision language in the definition of PA services, but also to authorize direct reimbursement to PAs.

Documenting and Measuring PA Value

As you know, few things stand in the way of PA progress more than the inability of PAs to document the care they provide and measure their value. Much of the patient care we deliver is not captured in billing records; therefore, our contribution to a practice and the quality and volume of our services is lost. This year, we will continue to seek an end to PAs being “hidden providers.” Tracking the contributions of PAs in our healthcare system is essential to identifying and acknowledging the true value of our profession.

Pushing Back Against Recertification Testing

Also a priority is communication with our colleagues at the National Commission on the Certification of PAs (NCCPA) on two significant issues: finding alternatives to high-stakes recertification testing and uncoupling state laws and regulations that tie PA current certification to license renewal.

We were glad to learn earlier this year that NCCPA will pilot alternatives to high stakes recertification testing by 2020, although details remain unclear. And as we announced last month, AAPA will contract with a highly respected, unbiased, independent research organization to identify evidence-based alternatives to high stakes PA recertification testing in an effort to help in finding solutions that are in the best interests of PAs and in line with best practices of other medical providers.

And in regard to NCCPA’s state lobbying efforts to tie current certification to maintenance of licensure, I am hopeful that NCCPA’s leadership has seen the light and will not interfere in the great work that PAs are doing to expand access to patient care and modernize our profession in state laws. However, if NCCPA or anyone else lobbies against efforts to modernize our profession in state laws, AAPA will be on the front lines with you to fight back.  Furthermore, in the 18 states that still have the tether of a high stakes exam linked to maintenance of certification,  we will continue our work to uncouple this tether.

Improving Employer PA Policies

Finally, we will continue to work with employers and healthcare systems across the country to improve their policies and their understanding of the utilization of PAs, working through AAPA’s Center for Healthcare Leadership and Management, known as CHLM. From outdated bylaws to culture change, the CHLM team is working with employers every day to make sure that they recognize the value of PAs!

Our plates are full of important work that I am eager to be involved in on behalf of all of the wonderful PAs who are making a difference in healthcare each and every day. It’s a privilege to be a PA and to serve this year as your president and chair.