Maine and Iowa governors sign law allowing PAs to practice more freely in COVID-19 efforts

According to news articles posted by the American Academy of PAs, both Maine and Iowa have passed legislation allowing physician assistants (PA) to practice more freely in the fight against the new coronavirus (COVID-19), effectively removing administrative burdens that can delay the provision of care.

Maine Governor Janet Mills signed the Act to Improve Access to Physician Assistant Care on March 18, 2020, and it will go into effect immediately, allowing PAs to better assist in the COVID-19 treatment efforts. The Act achieves the following:

  • Removes the term supervision from Maine law
  • Requires PAs with less than 4,000 hours of practice to practice with a physician in a collaborative agreement 
  • Allows most PAs with more than 4,000 hours of practice to practice without a written agreement (as long as a physician is available for consultation)
  • Makes PAs responsible for the care they provide
  • Eliminates the requirement for PAs to obtain a certificate of registration (in addition to a license) prior to practicing

“This is a groundbreaking moment in Maine PA history, and it occurs just as we enter into an unprecedented public health emergency,” says Gretchen Preneta, PA-C, president of the Maine Association of Physician Assistants. “We hope that our success will pave the way for other states to achieve similar victories, particularly at this time when we all need to be able to practice medicine to the full extent of our education and training.”

In Iowa, Governor Kim Reynold signed legislation on March 19, 2020 that expands the care PAs can provide in the state by removing certain burdens. The legislation achieves the following:

  • Permits PAs to prescribe Schedule II controlled medications (i.e., drugs with a high potential for abuse, such as oxycodone, morphine, opium, and methadone) consistent with their training and education
  • Eliminates requirements for co-signatures on charts
  • Eliminates the requirement that physicians visit remote locations staffed by PAs at least once every six months
  • Allows a PA’s scope of practice to be determined at the practice site
  • Authorizes PAs to be rendering providers under Medicaid
  • Revises and updates medical liability language

“Now is the time to act to ensure people throughout Iowa, especially those living in rural regions, have access to healthcare providers,” said Katie Gimbel, PA, Iowa PA Society president. “Now more than ever, our healthcare system needs to be as flexible as possible, particularly in remote sites. PAs and other healthcare providers are working together on the front lines to respond to COVID-19, and Governor Reynolds demonstrated strong leadership by approving much-needed changes to ensure healthcare teams in our state will not be held back due to outdated rules that stand in the way of caring for patients.”