PAs (physician assistants) in West Virginia are calling on Governor Jim Justice to withdraw his veto of a bill that was unanimously approved by the legislature and would have expanded access to high-quality healthcare, particularly in rural and medically underserved areas of the state.
The common sense legislation, S.B. 347, would have given PAs the ability to help more patients in the state by expanding PA prescriptive authority for Schedule III medications to 30 days from the current restriction of 72 hours, and authorized PAs to sign an extensive list of forms that previously had to be signed by a physician, including death certificates.
“This bill was not controversial. It had 100 percent bipartisan support. The governor’s ill-informed veto will hurt patients and that’s incredibly unfortunate,” said State Senator Tom Takubo, D.O., who represents District 17 and is lead sponsor of the bill. “PAs are highly trained medical professionals who, like physicians, must complete numerous hours of continuing medical education every year.”
This bill would have also repealed a requirement for PAs to have current certification from the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) for license renewal, which the governor stated as his reason for vetoing it. Neither physicians nor nurse practitioners in West Virginia are required to pass recertification exams in order to retain their license.
“PAs in West Virginia are totally shocked. Either the governor didn’t have all his facts straight when he made his decision or he was influenced by NCCPA lobbyists who have been pushing a false and harmful narrative in at least two other states,” said Rafael Rodighiero, PA-C, from Logan, West Virginia, and president of the West Virginia Association of PAs (WVAPA).
NCCPA has thus far targeted West Virginia, New Mexico and Illinois in its efforts to force PAs to take the NCCPA recertification exam. Contrary to NCCPA’s claims, there is no evidence that recertification testing improves quality of care or patient safety. In fact, 31 states and D.C. do not link PA recertification and licensure.
The American Academy of PAs (AAPA), the national organization representing the profession, believes that PAs should be able to maintain their licenses through continuing medical education (CME), just as physicians do.
“Maybe it’s a coincidence but we are not alone in noticing that one of the lobbyists hired by NCCPA is also a lobbyist for the Greenbrier Resort, which is owned by Governor Justice. This is quite concerning,” Rodighiero continued.
Members of the West Virginia Association of PAs are working to quickly mobilize PAs in the state and to determine if the veto can be reversed.