Jun 7, 2022 - Health

Doctors fight bill that lets more health workers treat federal employees

Illustration of a stethoscope with a "no" symbol on the bell/diaphragm.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Physicians are trying to sink a bill due to be taken up on the House floor on Tuesday that would allow federal employees to get work-related injuries diagnosed and treated by nurse practitioners and physician assistants.

The big picture: So-called scope of practice fights have intensified during the pandemic as emergency powers let medical providers who were not doctors provide more services.

Driving the news: The legislation would expand nurse practitioners' and physician assistants' roles in providing services to injured federal workers under the federal workers' compensation program.

  • The non-physician providers would be reimbursed for caring for patients in the program and could provide medical evidence to support a benefit claim.
  • The bipartisan bill is due to be brought up under a parliamentary process usually reserved for non-controversial legislation that limits floor debate and requires a two-thirds vote for passage.

What they're saying: American Medical Association CEO James Madara said the measure would undo federal law that prohibits non-physicians from making such disability determinations.

  • "H.R. 6087 effectively removes physicians from the care team and sets up our federal workers for suboptimal health outcomes and increased costs," Madara wrote in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, urging them to oppose the bill.

The other side: Bill supporters say the measure strengthens the safety net for injured workers and note that nurse practitioners and physician assistants are increasingly important players in health delivery, especially in underserved areas.

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