Gov. Jerry Brown (D) this week signed into law a bill (SB 493) that would give more responsibility to certain pharmacists. The measure is designed to ease the increasing burden on primary care providers by having pharmacists help with some of their tasks.
Brown signed the bill, by Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina), on Tuesday, the same day the state's health benefit exchange -- Covered California -- launched its initial open enrollment season.
Millions of Californians could become newly insured through the exchange or through the expansion of Medi-Cal -- both slated to begin Jan. 1, 2014 -- and those newly insured could add to the workload of primary care providers in California.
"If we didn't have the full use of pharmacists' services, it would be tantamount to inviting guests to come to the table only to find there wasn't enough food or place settings for everyone," said Dawn Benton, CEO of the California Society of Health-System Pharmacists.
"At a time when nearly 70% of Americans are managing their health through daily prescriptions, it only makes good sense to incorporate these skilled medication experts in our health care system," she said, "especially as we face a shortage of providers under the Affordable Care Act."
SB 493 will become law on Jan. 1, 2014. It will allow pharmacists to initiate certain kinds of prescriptions and to provide clinical advice and patient consultation.
The bill was part of a suite of four bills introduced this year to expand scope of practice for optometrists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and other mid-level practitioners.
Two of those bills, authored by Hernandez, have not made it out of committee: the optometrists' scope of practice bill (SB 492) and a bill to provide more autonomy for nurse practitioners in California (SB 491).
Hernandez has vowed to bring back the nurse practitioner bill in the next session. The fourth bill dealing with scope of practice, SB 352, by Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), was signed by the governor last month.