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Ed_Hernandez.jpgCiting a need for more medical professionals to be able to treat patients who will soon have health insurance under the federal Affordable Care Act, Sen. Ed Hernandez today introduced a package of bills allowing optometrists, pharmacists and nurse practitioners to expand the services they can offer patients.

The so-called "scope of practice" bills set the stage for a massive fight with the state's doctors, who will likely fight to protect their role as gatekeepers to medical care.

In a news conference at a Sacramento health clinic, Hernandez argued that because of a shortage of doctors in California, other kinds of medical professionals should be permitted to offer patients more care.

"Here in the state of California, we have a capacity issue. We have a work-force shortage," Hernandez said, adding that the problem is most severe in rural and inner-city areas.

With the federal health care overhaul kicking in, he said, nearly 5 million Californians who don't now have health insurance will be required to be insured as of next year.

"How is it that we're going to be requiring somebody to purchase health insurance, but yet they won't have access to a doctor?" Hernandez said. "This is what we need to address."

Hernandez's proposals will soon be spelled out in Senate Bills 491, 492 and 493. Sen. Fran Pavley is also working on Senate Bill 352, which would expand the scope of practice for physician's assistants.

PHOTO CREDIT: Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina, urges lawmakers to approve a Medi-Cal-related measure on Thursday, March 7, 2013. Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press


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