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Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signs bill expanding access to care from physician assistants

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Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed a bill that joins the state into a licensing compact for physician assistants. The state’s physician assistant organization hopes this compact will help address the need for more PAs.

With Stitt’s signature, House Bill 3781 — by Rep. Collin Duel (R-Guthrie) and Sen. Adam Pugh (R-Edmond) — made Oklahoma the eighth state to join the physician assistant licensure compact. Instead of applying to become licensed through individual states, PAs can apply and become compact members, allowing them to practice in all the states that join it.

If Oklahomans and other state compact members decided to take telemedicine clients or practice in person in another state, they would be required to practice under the rules set by that state.

Discussions surrounding the compact began in November 2019 in Washington, DC, when representatives from state medical, osteopathic and PA boards met. From there, Natasha Simonson, the Oklahoma Academy of Physician Associates vice president, said the group was introduced to the idea by its national organization.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, supervision and practice requirements were modified to ensure enough PAs could meet states’ increasing care needs. She said the efficiency of that process was part of what inspired the compact, which will reduce the time it takes to get licensed in other states and expand access to care across it.

“Oklahoma’s need, especially in the rural communities is … really challenged. So anything that can occur to actually help alleviate some of that is gonna be to everyone's benefit,” Simonson said.

The compact became effective April 5 when seven states joined it. Currently, nine states are a part of it, and there is pending legislation in nine additional states.

It’s estimated the compact will take 18-24 months to become fully operational, allowing PAs to apply to practice in other states.

Each state joining the compact will appoint a commissioner to the PA Compact Commission. The Oklahoma State Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision will elect Oklahoma’s representative.

The commission will meet to elect an executive committee and vote on compact rules and bylaws.

Then, the compact commission will work on a data system providing information about licensees. This would include things like a PA’s license status and adverse actions against a license.

Once states have communicated licensure information, PAs can apply for the privilege to practice in other compact states. Applications will involve verifying a PA has a license in a member state and is eligible to participate in the compact.

Then, the application will be reviewed by the compact commission and if they’re approved, they will be issued compact privileges in the states they select.

Simonson said the Oklahoma Academy of Physician Associates is thankful Stitt signed the bill into law and looks forward to seeing how it will impact care in the state.

“As a PA, I love what I do, and it's an honor to get to take care of patients and to be a part of their lives, whether it's a 10-minute encounter in the ER or an ongoing encounter in a different environment,” Simonson said. “It's a privilege to get to do what we do. So any moves that the government does to help us deliver the care and take care of Oklahomans that need care is something that we're all very grateful for.”

HB 3781 will go into effect Nov. 1.

StateImpact Oklahoma is a partnership of Oklahoma’s public radio stations which relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online.

Jillian Taylor reports on health and related topics for StateImpact Oklahoma.
StateImpact Oklahoma reports on education, health, environment, and the intersection of government and everyday Oklahomans. It's a reporting project and collaboration of KGOU, KOSU, KWGS and KCCU, with broadcasts heard on NPR Member stations.
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