Calif. bills would give provider status to pharmacists, nurse practitioners

NEW YORK — Three bills introduced in California's state legislature earlier this month would recognize pharmacists as healthcare providers.

The bills, introduced by state Senate Health Committee chairman Ed Hernandez, would allow pharmacists, nurse practitioners and optometrists to practice the full extent of their education and training.

"This legislation is tied to the national push for provider status," California Pharmacists Association CEO Jon Roth said. "In fact, one section of the bill states that it would declare pharmacists as healthcare 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."

According to a fact sheet from Hernandez's office, the bills are designed to expand access to healthcare among the at least 4.7 million state residents who will be covered following the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The fact sheet cited a report by the California Health Care Foundation indicating that the number of primary-care physicians in the state is at the bottom range of or below its need, and there is also a poor distribution of physicians. In 2008, there were 69,460 physicians in the state, 35% of whom practiced primary care, equal to 63 primary-care physicians per 100,000 people. But according to the Council on Graduate Medical Education, between 60 and 80 primary-care physicians per 100,000 people are needed, but only 16 of the state's 58 counties meet this criterion.