The Missouri legislature has approved a bill allowing licensed medical school graduates, prior to or without residency training, to treat patients in underserved areas. Modern Healthcare reports the bill—which introduces the term “assistant physician”— is now pending Gov. Jay Nixon’s signature, anticipated on or before July 14.
Physicians can spend anywhere from three to seven years in residency, depending on their chosen area of medicine. All states currently require medical school graduates to have at least one year of post-graduate training prior to earning their license. Under the bill, however, assistant physicians would be allowed to provide primary care and prescribe medication in rural and urban areas deemed medically underserved. Assistant physicians would be overseen by a physician.
According to the St. Louis Dispatch, the Show-Me State’s health department reports only 18 percent of Missouri’s primary care physicians provide care to rural areas, which contain approximately 37 percent of the state’s residents. This bill, as well as other active programs—like the University of Missouri’s student loan forgiveness program—aims to incentivize medical school graduates and physicians to remain in the state.
In an interview with the Dispatch, Missouri State Medical Association Legal Affairs and Government Relations Representative Jeffrey Howell said, “Missouri truly has an opportunity to be a trailblazer on this type of licensure and solving the healthcare access problem. This is a brand new idea and something that we should take advantage of as a state.”
Gov. Nixon has not stated whether he is in favor of the bill.