Two bills with the potential to do great things for PA education were introduced in the House of Representatives on March 17. Congressmember Karen Bass, a PA and a former PA educator, introduced the two bills, which include some significant changes from the versions introduced in 2015, based on feedback from Hill staff and the changed climate in Washington. PAEA’s government relations (GR) staff have worked closely with Bass’s staff to develop the language for the bills, and they lay the foundation for our legislative, regulatory, grassroots, and stakeholder development strategies to advance our priority issues. The bills are named as follows:
- HR. 1603, The Physician Assistant Higher Education Modernization Act of 2017
- HR. 1605, The Physician Assistant Education Public Health Initiatives Act of 2017
We Need Your Help!
The introduction of these bills is a big step for our PA education advocacy efforts, but we need your help to advance the legislation. We need you to let your members of Congress know about the bills and why they are important to you, your program, your faculty and your students. Please tell them your stories and how these bills would make an impact. We are also looking for faculty who have relationships with representatives who may be interested in cosponsoring the bills. Stay tuned for an action alert: Later this week you will receive an alert with clear directions on how you can help advance these bills.
The next step for our GR team is that we will begin the process of “shopping” the bills in Congress to seek House cosponsors, and also Senate sponsors to introduce the bills in the Senate.
What’s in the Bills?
These bills aim to ensure that PA students continue receiving a high-quality education by (1) seeking to address the clinical site shortage issues (2) addressing their needs for an increased annual unsubsidized Stafford loan limit, (3) supporting infrastructure and technology at PA programs, (4) focusing on the diversity of the profession, and (5) providing opportunities for faculty development.
We are addressing the most important issue facing PA programs today — the shortage of clinical sites. The Public Health Initiatives bill includes an innovative solution to the clinical site shortage: Under Medicare’s Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS), MIPS-eligible clinicians would receive clinical practice improvement activity points for agreeing to precept PA students.
Additional details of the bills are outlined below.
The Higher Education Modernization Act would do the following:
- Increase the yearly unsubsidized loan limit for PAs and allow PAs to be eligible for incentives when serving as primary care providers or faculty members under section 428k of the Higher Education Act (HEA).
- Make PA education programs at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) eligible to receive additional grants through section 723 and 724 of the HEA and provide preference for grant awards for PA education programs at Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) through section 512 of HEA.
- Provide grant funding to support the development and expansion of PA education programs, especially at rural-serving institutions of higher education.
- Create a demonstration project to develop, expand, and support PAs who want to become faculty members.
- Provide two grant funding opportunities to improve faculty development as well as support modernizing technology and infrastructure.
The Physician Assistant Public Health Initiatives Act would do the following:
- Address the ongoing shortage in clinical practice training sites by providing clinical practice improvement activity points under MIPS.
- Reauthorize the Primary Care Training and Enhancement Program to ensure that a portion of the funds appropriated is received by PA education programs.
- Provide grant funding to an eligible entity for the purpose of administering a dedicated research program in the field of PA education.
We are also awaiting introduction of a third bill, the “no-cost bill,” which will be introduced by a republican congressman. This bill combines the provisions in the two bills that do not have a cost: the MIPS provision, reauthorization of the 15 percent allocation, and supporting grants at HBCUs, predominantly black institutions, and HSIs. This bill has the greatest chance of advancing through other legislation in this Congress because it does not cost additional money and will be more attractive to the majority in Congress.