Physician associates in support of house Bill that would improve healthcare access for Kentuckians

Published 3:52 pm Wednesday, February 7, 2024

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House Bill 361, sponsored by Representative Mike Clines (R-Campbell) was introduced on February 1. If passed, it would modernize legislation that would in turn remove barriers for physician associates seeking their practicing licenses.

Ashton Ogle is a certified physician associate who recently received her medical science doctorate. She’s still a practicing PA, but her doctorate has educated her in the intricacies of the healthcare system and the leadership and management elements of healthcare. She is on the American Academy for Physician Associates (AAPA) board and supports this bill.

Kentuckians are still suffering from the shortage of healthcare workers lost from COVID-19- whether from death, retirement, or plain burnout. Frontline healthcare workers have been praised for the past several years as “Healthcare Heroes,” but words can’t heal burnout.

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This bill’s introduction coincides with the release of a Harris Poll, commissioned by the AAPA, in which 2,519 patients were interviewed nationwide, besides 503 patients in Kentucky.

The report found that nearly one in three (32 percent) Kentucky patients give the current healthcare system a failing grade, higher than the national average of 26 percent. This is a failing grade, according to the survey.

Twenty-one percent of Kentuckians also reported feeling their insurance coverage was insufficient to receive necessary care. Nearly half of Kentuckians- 48 percent of patients- reported delayed or skipped healthcare in the last two years.

These things that lead to Kentuckians deciding to delay or skip care (including preventative care) out of need, according to Ogle, can obviously lead to more serious issues down the road, possibly even terminal issues. “Those are things that we don’t want,” She said, stating that this data is “alarming and upsetting.”

Ogle said that it’s good first to acknowledge that there’s a problem.

“We don’t rank well in terms of Kentuckians regarding healthcare and our overall health and wellbeing,” she said.

However, Ogle speaks for all Kentucky PAs when she said that she believes that, with the help of House Bill 361, PAs can be the solution for improving Kentuckians’ access to healthcare.

“So all of those things are alarming, and they are things that we all worry about, but the good news is that PAs are a part of that solution and utilizing PAs as trusted member of the healthcare team really helps eliminate these barriers that patients and their families feel in terms of seeking healthcare, finding healthcare, and ultimately improving patient satisfaction,” Ogle said.

“What was great about this poll is we found that 70 percent of Kentucky patients reported that they would trust a PA to serve as their primary care provider. 93 percent of those patients believe that PAs can improve access to care and make it easier to get a medical appointment, which, ultimately, can be lifesaving in many situations.”

Ogle said that she, too, has a PA as her primary care provider and wants to remind Kentuckians they can often get an appointment much quicker if they do the same.

“I think the important part is that more and more we’re seeing that patients are working with PAs and trust them to be a part of the healthcare team and that is the core of the PA profession is that we’re part of the healthcare team, we’re trained, we’re rigorously educated and we’re ultimately dedicated to expanding access to care. We feel that especially in our communities in Kentucky and we’re very passionate about getting out some of this information and trying to make Kentucky a better environment for PAs to practice and that helps our communities in the long run.” Ogle said.

The summary of the original bill reads as follows: “Amend KRS 311.530 to add the chair of the Physician Assistant Advisory Committee to the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure as an ex officio nonvoting member; amend KRS 311.842 to change how the physician assistants on the Physician Assistant Advisory Committee are selected, establish that the chair must be a practicing physician assistant, and limit members to two consecutive terms; amend KRS 311.854 to remove the application requirement to list the name, address, and area of practice of supervising physicians.