California bill recognizes pharmacists as providers

State Sen. Ed Hernandez, OD, announces package of bills to address primary care physician workforce shortage

 

In California, a package of bills intended to allow pharmacists (SB 493), nurse practitioners (SB 491), and optometrists (SB 492) to practice to the full extent of their education and training was introduced on February 21 and announced at a news conference on March 13 by state Sen. Ed Hernandez, OD, (D-24) who is Chair of the Senate Health Committee. A parallel bill introduced for physician assistants is being carried by another author.

The California Pharmacists Association (CPhA) supports the proposed legislation, which is authored by Hernandez, a practicing optometrist, according to CPhA CEO Jon R. Roth, CAE. The bills are just now beginning their journey through the legislative process.

“This legislation is tied to the national push for provider status,” Roth told pharmacist.com. “In fact, one section of the bill states that it would declare pharmacists as health care providers in the state of California. This is important because we want to ensure that pharmacists have the ability to join medical homes, accountable care organizations, and other systems of care where provider status may be important.”

A fact sheet from Hernandez’s office built a case that the bills are intended to address the current “primary care physician workforce shortage” that will be compounded by the incoming flood of 4.7 million Californians eligible for health insurance starting in 2014 under the Affordable Care Act.

Efforts to train more primary care physicians will take 7–10 years to realize the benefits, and in the meantime, millions of patients will be waiting to access care, Roth said. “Pharmacists are highly trained and widely deployed throughout communities and so it makes perfect sense to use this health care workforce to provide basic primary care services to our residents.”