Law Change in August on Physican Assistants

Published 07/29 2013 08:42AM

Updated 09/01 2013 05:21PM

BRANSON, Mo. -- They perform physical exams, diagnose illnesses, even prescribe medications and odds are you can get in to see them faster than with your doctor.

Physician's assistants require doctor supervision for more than half the time they work, but a new Missouri bill that goes into affect in August will reduce that time and potentially provide patients with more healthcare options.

Patient Bil Deck is in for an appointment at Faith Community Health Clinic for his sleep troubles.  But worrying about how he'll pay for his healthcare isn't what keeps him up at night.
"You don't have to jump through so many hoops that by the time you're there, you might as well just go ahead and pass away."

Patients like Deck receive healthcare here from physician assistants at a reduced cost.   

Currently, Missouri PA's must have doctor supervision 66 percent of the time they deliver care.  But in late August, under House Bill 315, that time will be reduced to just four hours of supervision every two weeks.

"We're trying to be innovative about this"

Steve Berkstresser, a PA for Cox Medical Center in Branson, says the change in the law will help volunteer-based clinics like Faith Community Health ease the overload at other area health centers.

"We're trying to keep them healthy enough that we can keep them out of the hospital, because that is an enormous drain on the healthcare system," Berkstresser notes.

"The clinic includes a dispensary where patients can get the prescriptions they need at a reduced cost."

"If they aren't capable of purchasing their medicine, which is a big problem with a lot of people, then oftentimes we have the medication right here to offer them before they ever leave," says Berkstresser.

It's the cost and quality of care here Deck says is what keeps him coming back.
"I think the expense of a lot of things is what keeps people from really taking care of themselves, and that's where I think this clinic really helps a lot because it is affordable."

While Deck's lack of sleep is stressful, he can rest assured knowing he can get in when he needs to and paying for his healthcare won't give him a headache.

Faith Community Health also provides patients with vision and dental care.
Physician's assistants say they expect the demand for their services to go up once the affordable health care act kicks in in October.  That's because once all Americans are required to have insurance, doctors' availability will decrease.

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