By John Pulley 08/05/11 07:52 am ET
Physician assistants deserve incentives — at least when it comes to buying electronic health records.
That’s the message from the American Academy of Physician Assistants, which is praising a bill introduced Monday in the House that calls for extending Medicaid incentive payments to physician assistants under the Health IT for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. Currently the incentives are restricted to physicians and nurse practitioners.
The bill, the Health IT Modernization for Underserved Communities Act, H.R. 2729, was filed by Reps. Karen Bass, D-Calif., and Lee Terry, R-Neb. It calls for amending the HITECH Act to extend incentive payments to physician assistants who adopt and use certified EHRs at rural health centers and other federally qualified health centers. Practices would need a patient base comprising at least 30 percent Medicaid patients to qualify for the incentives.
“Enhanced, quality patient care is the goal of electronic health records. The current HITECH limitation on Medicaid EHR limits the development of EHR systems for Medicaid beneficiaries who are served by PAs. This legislation extends additional support to community health centers and other medical practices in which PAs provide care to a high volume of Medicaid patients,” Bass said in a news release.
Robert Wooten, president of the Alexandria, Va.-based physician assistant group, said in a statement that the current rules penalize medical practices and clinics employing large numbers of PAs and provides a “financial disincentive” for hiring PAs. Physician assistants might be the only health-care professionals in medically underserved communities, he said.
“The ultimate beneficiaries of electronic medical records are patients, and this bill extends the promise of improved medical care to the Medicaid patients served by physician assistant,” he said.