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House passes bill expanding federal employees’ access to treatment under workers’ comp program

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Washington — The House has passed legislation that would expand the types of medical professionals who can treat injured employees under the Federal Workers’ Compensation Program.

The Improving Access to Workers’ Compensation for Injured Federal Workers Act (H.R. 6087), was introduced by Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT) on Nov. 30. If it becomes law, the bill would allow nurse practitioners and physician assistants “acting within the scope of their practice” to:

  • Prescribe or recommend treatment for injured workers.
  • Certify the nature of an injury and the “probable extent” of a disability.
  • Provide prescribed treatment to an injured worker.
  • Participate, with a Department of Labor-designated physician, in a mandatory workers’ comp examination of an injured worker.

Under current law, only physicians are permitted to fulfill those tasks.

“Core federal health care programs, including Medicare and the Veterans Affairs system, already recognize services delivered by nurse practitioners and physician assistants if provided within the scope of practice allowed by state law,” Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), chair of the House Education and Labor Committee, said June 7 on the House floor. “We live in a country where people are increasingly turning to nurse practitioners and physician assistants as their primary health care provider. This is particularly true in rural America where they are disproportionately impacted by physician shortages.”

In a June 7 statement, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), ranking member of the committee, said she was “proud” to support the bill.

“Every American worker should receive timely treatment when facing a work-related injury,” Foxx said. “With many rural areas experiencing critical provider shortages, this legislation will ensure federal workers seeking medical care have expanded access to treatment by allowing physician assistants and nurse practitioners to provide hands-on care within their scope of practice under state law. This means that injured workers will get what they need most: care from medical experts they choose and trust.”

 

The American Medical Association, however, is voicing its opposition to the bill. In a letter sent June 5 to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), AMA Executive Vice President and CEO James L. Madara writes: “The AMA is concerned that H.R. 6087, while perhaps well-intentioned for speedier workers’ compensation determinations, will actually jeopardize patient care. Moreover, while all health care professionals play a critical role in providing care to patients, and NPs and PAs are important members of the care team, their skill sets are not interchangeable with that of fully educated and trained physicians.”

The bill is now under consideration by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

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