On Friday, March 26, Governor Tony Evers signed into law 2021 Wisconsin Act 23, a bipartisan piece of legislation to update how Wisconsin regulates physician assistants (PAs). The bill (Assembly Bill 125) passed the Assembly on March 16 and the Senate on March 23, both on voice votes. Most of the provisions will take effect on April 1, 2022, except for the creation of a PA Affiliated Credentialing Board, which took effect on March 28. Staff with the Department of Safety and Professional Services report that they are working with Gov. Evers’ office to begin making appointments to this new board.
The group of legislators who shepherded the PA bill through the Legislature were Senators Kathy Bernier (R-Chippewa Falls), Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield), and Brad Pfaff (D-Onalaska) and Representatives Nancy VanderMeer (R-Tomah), James Edming (R-Glen Flora), and Dave Considine (D-Baraboo). Similar legislation passed the Assembly on a voice vote in February 2020 but stalled when the Senate cancelled its last floor period due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Act 23 reflects a compromise agreed to in the 2019-20 legislative session by the Wisconsin Academy of Physician Assistants, the Wisconsin Hospital Association, the Wisconsin Medical Society, the Wisconsin Academy of Family Physicians, and associated specialty physician associations.
Previously, PAs practiced under the general supervision of a physician and a physician could not supervise more than four PAs. The new law will allow PAs to practice in collaboration with a physician. Physician-to-PA ratios will be determined at the practice level, similar to the existing nurse practitioner-physician relationship, thus allowing PAs to practice to the full extent of their education, experience and training. Hospital systems and clinics will be able to more effectively deploy their PAs to help expand access to health care, particularly in rural and underserved areas.