Legislation that would have authorized “nurse practitioners” to treat patients without the supervision of a physician, including prescribing drugs, was rejected Tuesday by the Assembly Business and Professions Committee.
The lopsided, 8-4 vote against the measure, Senate Bill 323, was a climax to this year’s version of the Capitol’s perennial war among medical factions over “scope of practice.”
It also carried echoes of this year’s very contentious Democrat vs. Democrat battle for a vacant state Senate seat in Contra Costa and Alameda counties.
State law governs each medical specialty’s legal practice and virtually every legislative session includes at least one clash over changing the rules.
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Nurses, backed by medical insurers and hospitals, portrayed SB 323, which cleared the Senate easily on a 25-5 vote, as a way of expanding primary medical care services in an era of physician shortages, especially for low-income patients.
But physicians, including the California Medical Association, opposed the bill as an incursion by nurses on their practices.
The committee’s chairwoman, Susan Bonilla, received heavy support from physicians in her bid for the 7th Senate District seat (she was also supported by the nurses’ association), but lost to Steve Glazer. Bonilla said the campaign played no role in her handling of the bill. She voted against SB 323 Tuesday after the bill’s author, Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-Azusa, refused to take an amendment she proposed to “level the playing field.”
The amendment would have subjected nurse practitioners to the same ban on corporate employment that applies to physicians.
“That’s my line in the sand,” Hernandez told Bonilla. “I just can’t do it.” Several organizations backing the bill said they would pull off if the amendment was placed in the bill.
California Medical Association president Luther F. Cobb later hailed the committee’s rejection of SB 323 as “a good day for the health of Californians.”