California Lawmaker Seeks to Expand the Roles of Non-Physicians

March 13, 2013

By  Pauline Bartolone

A California lawmaker proposes to allow some healthcare workers to expand their range of services in order to meet the new demand for health care under the Affordable Care Act.
Democratic State Senator Ed Hernandez says there is already a limited number of family doctors in the state, especially in rural areas and inner cities.

And he says the health system must get ready to add as many as five million Californians to health coverage next year.

HERNANDEZ: "Even before the Affordable Care Act is going to be implemented literally months from now in 2014, the system we have now is overburdened. We are barely meeting the demand now."

Hernandez says the limited timeframe requires using the existing workforce more efficiently.

That's why he wants to allow nurse practitioners, pharmacists and optometrists to provide more services than they are currently allowed.

But Dr. James Hay of the California Medical Association says that could create a two-tiered system in which some people don't see a physician.

HAY: "They should have available to them the full range of physicians and providers that all patients get."

Hay says the state needs more residency programs, loan repayment programs and medical schools to remedy doctor shortage areas.