As States Ease Hurdles To Physician Assistants, Salaries Eclipse $100K

As states allow physician assistants to gain more access to patients, PA salaries are rising above $100,000 across the country, according to a new report.

The American Academy of PAs says PA median base salaries rose nearly 3% to $105,000 last year from $102,000 in 2016 as states lift restrictions and regulatory hurdles to allow physician assistants to work more “collaboratively” with physicians as the team-based approach to healthcare takes hold.

“State laws that create barriers to PA practice are associated with lower base salaries for PAs,” the report said.

For example, states where scope of practice is “determined at practice level,” the mean pay was $4,000 higher, or $108,722  , than states that didn’t allow the private practice to determine a PA’s role, according to the new report. And when there was no requirement that a physician sign a chart known as the “chart cosignature” the mean salary was $2,000 higher, or $108,225.

It's the latest study to show rising compensation of PAs.  A profile of the profession from the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants earlier this year showed certified PAs earned an average salary of $107,718.

Historically, states have required physicians to more closely monitor PAs in what some have said led to redundant tasks or slowed the ability of patients to get the care they needed in a timely fashion.

A physician assistant is a nationally certified health professional and must be licensed in the states where they practice. PAs generally have a three-year master’s degree from a program that runs about two years and includes three years of healthcare training.

They work in doctor’s offices, hospitals, surgery centers and other locations and their work includes diagnosing illnesses, writing prescriptions and counseling patients on preventive care.

Increasingly, health insurance companies are contracting with medical care providers that include nurse practitioners and PAs in a team-based approach to healthcare delivery designed to improve quality and reduce costs.

Health insurance companies led by Aetna, Anthem, UnitedHealth Group, Cigna and Humana are reporting that the majority of their payments are made via value-based care models that emphasize getting patient care in the right place, in the right amount and at the right time.

That’s in sharp contrast to the traditional fee-for-service model that emphasizes volume of care delivered.

There are more than 123,000 licensed PAs in practice today and there numbers are rising.

“PAs are critical members of a patient’s care team who practice in all medical settings and specialties across the country,” said Jonathan Sobel, president and chair of the AAPA Board of Directors said.

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