Public Act 379 of 2016 Updates How Physician Assistants Practice in Michigan by Removing “Supervision” and “Delegation” Language; Utilizing Practice Agreement Model

Public Act 379, which was signed into law in December 2016, modernizes the statutory language for PA-physician teams by referencing “participating physicians” rather than “supervising physicians.”  This change more accurately reflects the role PAs and physicians play as part of a healthcare team.  PA 379 requires that a PA and the participating physician work together utilizing a written practice agreement that sets out a process for communication, availability and decision-making between the providers and delineates any limitations or conditions on the PA’s duties or scope of practice.  Under the new law, PAs continue to be held to a standard of competency and training with regards to the medical care services they provide.

PA 379 also removes the bright-line PA/physician ratio used under the old statute in favor of a more flexible approach that permits the Boards of Medicine, Osteopathic Medicine and Podiatry to evaluate various considerations on this issue.

Notably, the new law defines PAs as independent “prescribers,” providing that PAs can prescribe without the need for delegated authority from the participating physician when they are a party to a practice agreement.

PA 379 also removed the statutory language that defined PAs as an “agent” of the supervising physician.  The removal of this agency language may eliminate a cause of action against the participating physician for vicarious liability, but it does not change the fact that PAs, as licensed professionals, have always been responsible for their professional actions.

In many ways, PA 379 modernizes the statutory language to bring it in line with the way that PAs and physicians already practice together as part of a healthcare team.  The statute does create some “action items” for PAs, including having a written practice agreement in place by March 22, 2017.  Also, PAs who intend to prescribe controlled substances will need to apply for a Michigan Controlled Substance License (CSL) in addition to maintaining their DEA License.  Information regarding the Michigan CSL can be found here.


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