New Bill in South Carolina would grant PAs more autonomy

Posted By American Med Spa Association, Wednesday, December 19, 2018

A Representative in the South Carolina House has just introduced a new bill that if passed would give physician assistants (PAs) more freedom in their practice. Introduced by Rep. Richard Yow, House Bill H3399, more commonly known as the “PA Act of 2019”, is currently with the House’s Committee on Education and Public Works awaiting the start of the 2019 legislative session. The bill would make numerous revisions to the existing law governing physician assistants.  
Chief among the proposed changes is allowing PAs to enter into “scope of practice agreements” with supervising physicians as opposed to “scope of practice guidelines”. This is a shift away from PAs being seen only as assisting physicians to being medical practitioners working under physician supervision. The scope of practice agreements still needs to be submitted to the Board of Medical Examiners for approval. However, now the agreements are approved automatically within five business days unless the Board notifies the PA and physician of areas that need to be remedied. This is substantially faster than the current affirmative approval needed within 10 business days.
The PA Act would also designate PAs as primary care or mental healthcare providers if they are practicing in an area where a physician would be considered as such. And subject to their supervising physician and their scope of practice agreements, PAs may provide any medical services for which they have the training, education, experience, and competency. This includes diagnosing, ordering, and interpreting diagnostic studies, providing consultations, issuing medical orders, and signing documents if a physician would be able to do the same.
The proposed legislation would increase the number of PAs that a physician may simultaneously supervise. Currently, physicians can supervise no more than three PAs at a time. The bill would increase this to six total persons including PAs, NPs, CNMs, or CNSs. The bill also relaxes the geographic restrictions when a PA is not practicing at the same site as their supervising physician.  Currently the offsite location must be within 60 miles of the physician. The proposed changes would only require that the physician be located in South Carolina and available for conference by telephone or other electronic communication.
Bill H3399 would make many other changes to physicians assistants practice consistent with a national trend for granting more authority and autonomy to midlevel health professionals, such as nurse practitioners. If you have questions or concerns on this proposed legislation you may contact the Bill’s sponsor Richard Yow via his House of Representatives profile page. We at AmSpa will be following this bill as it advances through the legislative process.