Category Archives: Current Affairs

Los Angeles Medical Association: Navigating the Hornet’s Nest of Reimbursement

Matt Kinley Speaks to Los Angeles County Medical Association on March 23, 2016.  Contact Mr. Kinley at mkinley@tldlaw.com if your interested in attending.

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HHS TO CREATE NEW CYBERSECURITY REGULATIONS FOR HEALTH CARE

CONGRESS DIRECTS ACTION IN HEALTHCARE CYBERSECURITY

In December of 2015 Congress passed a 2000-page spending bill which was enacted into law. Included in the text was the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015 (CISA). While that legislation received most of the headlines, the spending bill also implemented some major developments in the field of privacy for the healthcare industry. Section 405 of Title IV directs the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to develop best practices for organizations in the healthcare industry.

The legislation mandates HHS to report to Congress regarding the preparedness of the health care industry in responding to cybersecurity threats. This includes identifying the HHS official responsible for coordinating threat efforts and including plans on how HHS divisions communicate with one another regarding threats. Congress also mandated a one-year task force to plan a threat reporting system in real time, and to prepare a cybersecurity preparedness information for dissemination in the healthcare industry. Most notably, HHS has been directed to collaborate with other governmental entities and experts to establish a best practices standards specific to healthcare cybersecurity. The intent is to create an industry standard and cost-effective method to reduce cybersecurity risks for healthcare organizations.

Inclusion of Section 405 of the Cybersecurity Act of 2015 reinforces the federal government’s well-established priority of protecting personal health information. Protection is necessary because of the high value of personal health information on the black market. According to the The Insurance Journal, a complete health record containing a patient’s entire health profile can fetch as much as $500. The value is based on the ability of lawbreakers to fraudulently bill insurers for medical services. Compared to industries like the credit card payment industry—which has implemented its own cybersecurity standards—the healthcare industry is woefully behind in its efforts to protect valuable private information.

Healthcare facilities, both public and private, should stay ahead of HHS and develop their own internal policies, security measures, and best practices to protect confidential information of their patients. While guidance form HHS in the future will help establish industry standard best practices, healthcare providers should evaluate their cybersecurity needs and work with experts—attorneys, technologists, and governmental agencies—to stay ahead of the curve. Undoubtedly the attention given to healthcare cybersecurity in the next years will increase the scrutiny on healthcare providers who fail to meet industry standards.

By Matt Kinley,Esq., LLM, CHC

562.715.5557

Fraud Alert Issued by OIG Puts Medical Directorships Under Suspicion

Make Sure Your Medical Directorship is Legal

HHS’s Office of Inspector General’s Fraud Alert issued in June of this year  puts an often-used tool for compensating physicians in the regulatory cross hairs. “Medical directorships,” or the payment of a physician for overseeing clinics or other medical services, will violate the Federal and state Anti-Kickback statutes if “even one purpose of the arrangement is to compensate a physician for his or her past or future referrals.”

Compensation arrangements between hospitals, physician groups and other medical providers that contemplate management or directorships by a physician should be carefully evaluated by competent counsel. OIG has said that it will be reviewing such arrangements with particular interest. If a violation is found, the result could include criminal, civil and regulatory fines, and exclusion from federal health care payment systems.

Some of the elements of an appropriate directorship or management position for a physician might include a written contract for at least a year with a salary that constitutes a fair market value for services actually provided. Such an agreement should be backed up by salary surveys or other documentation that the compensation is based on similar positions within the community.

By Matt Kinley,Esq., LLM, CHC

562.715.5557

PHYSICIAN COMPENSATION UNDER OIG REVIEW

Physician Compensation Arrangements Under Scrutiny

On June 9, 2015, the Office of Inspector General issued a special Fraud Alert warning physicians that compensation arrangements (such as medical directorships) must ensure that the arrangement reflects fair market value. Such arrangements “may violate the anti-kickback statute even if one purpose of the arrangement is to compensation a physician for his or her past or future referrals of Federal health care program business.”

California statures and rules can be even stricter.

In this era of merger and consolidation, medical providers must be careful to create appropriate compensation arrangements. They must carefully document attempts at establishing fair market value, or be subject to regulatory prosecution.

This alert comes after the OIG recently reached settlements with 12 physicians who entered into medical directorships and other arrangements, which the OIG concluded violated the Federal Anti-Kickback Statute. In those cases, the arrangements appeared to be illegal for one or more of the following reasons:

• The payments to the physicians took into account the physicians’ volume or value of referrals.

• The payments did not reflect fair market value for the physicians’ services.

• The physicians did not actually provide the services required under the agreements.

• The entities contracting the physicians paid the salaries of the physicians’ front office staff.

Certain physician compensation arrangements – and particularly medical director arrangements – are perceived as risk areas for Anti-Kickback Statute violations. Facilities and physicians entering into such arrangements should review existing and new arrangements for compliance in light of this Fraud Alert and should seek the expertise of health care legal counsel.

By Matt Kinley,Esq., LLM, CHC

562.715.5557

Reporting Physician Office Controlled Substance or Prescription Abuse

Physician offices often are hit with an internal crime:  employees utilize the office, its forms, the doctors DEA Number, or even the computers to write unauthorized prescriptions. The physician’s office has the obligation to make sure that forms, computers, and other tools utilized to write prescriptions are carefully safeguards.  Attorneys and malpractice carriers can be consulted for the best practices.

Health and Safety Code Section 11368 states that anyone who forges or alters a prescription or who obtains any narcotic drug by a forged, fictitious, or altered prescription may be punished by imprisonment in the county jail or state prison for not less than six months or more than one year. Since prescription forgery is considered a criminal offense, it is recommended that a report be made to the local law enforcement.

The California Medical Board provides some specific advice:

Federal law requires physicians to report theft or loss of controlled substances and official Federal Order Forms (Form 222) to a regional office of the Drug Enforcement Administration. The DEA has offices located in Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco and the office addresses and phone number are available through their website. In addition, the DEA has their reporting forms available online at the following link: http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/21cfr_reports/theft/index.html.

While neither the Medical Board nor state law requires that a report of stolen or illegal use of the physician’s DEA number be made to the Board, it is our recommendation that physicians provide the Medical Board with a written narrative of the circumstances and the actions taken by the physician so we may have this information on file. When the written narrative is received, this valuable information will be input into the Medical Board’s internal database for reference, as it is not unusual to receive complaints from pharmacists or law enforcement officers regarding concerns about physicians’ prescribing practices. If a physician has already reported that he/she has experienced a problem related to the illegal use of his/her DEA number, the Board has already been provided with background information on the problem. The written narrative should be forwarded to the Medical Board of California, Central Complaint Unit, 2005 Evergreen Street, Suite 1200, Sacramento, CA 95815.

Once the information has been processed, the physician will receive correspondence from the Central Complaint Unit containing their assigned “Conl Number,” which should be maintained for their records. A carbon copy of this correspondence will also be forwarded to the California Board of Pharmacy so they may notify pharmacies in the physician’s surrounding area of the incident. The notified pharmacies will then contact the physician to verify any prescriptions they receive on the physician’s prescription pad or using the physician’s DEA number. For additional questions or concerns regarding this issue, please contact the Central Complaint Unit through the Medical Board’s toll-free number, 1-800-633-2322.

In addition to the above, if the physician is aware of the theft or loss of the tamper-resistant prescription forms, the State Department of Justice, Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement must be notified. To report the theft or loss of the new tamper-resistant prescription forms, Form JUS MUST be completed. Please complete all applicable fields on the form and forward the form to: California Department of Justice, Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, CURES Program, P.O. Box 160447, Sacramento, California, 95816, FAX: (916) 319-9448. If you have additional questions or concerns regarding lost or stolen tamper-resistant prescriptions forms, please contact the CURES Program at (916) 319-9062.

Matt Kinley, Esq. 

YOUR “JOHN HANCOCK” ON A COMPUTER KEYBOARD

When is an “electronic signature” legally appropriate in the medical context?

More than one would think. Electronic signatures are appropriate under HIPAA and other federal and state laws, and they are enforceable under California’s Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (Civil Code section 1633.1 et seq, “UETA”). There are some cautions, though. Digital signatures on custodian affidavit/declaration forms, consents to treatment, and generally all document where a patient must sign are permissible and legally enforceable.
Electronic & Digital Signatures.

There is a distinction between an “electronic” and a “digital” signature. Federal law and many state laws allow electronic signatures on some documents. Electronic signatures can be a picture of a signature, an agreed-upon string of characters, a symbol, a signature typed into a signature block in an ¬electronic form, and other personal non-encrypted, agreed-upon identifiers. A digital signature is an encrypted “hash” or tag that is registered to an individual and ¬accompanies transmission of electronic data or forms signed via computer. They are much more reliable than electronic signatures because they allow recipients to validate senders and prevent repudiation at a later date.

California Law: the UETA

California law provides in the UETA: “(a) A record or signature may not be denied legal effect of enforceability solely because it is in electronic form. (b) A contract may not be denied legal effect or enforceability solely because an electronic record was used in its formation (c)If a law requires a record to be in writing, an electronic record satisfies the law. (d) If a law requires a signature, an electronic signature satisfies the law.”

What is an electronic signature? The language of the statute is simple: an electronic signature satisfies the law. Typically, if the person “signing” types his name on an email, formatted screen or word processing document, that will suffice as a signature. The document with the signature should be reliable: sent from the signers email, or delivered by him or her in some way.

CAUTION!

As in all contracts, the surrounding circumstances are important. In a recent California Court of Appeals case, (JBB Investment Partners v. B. Thomas Fair), the court looked at the actions surrounding a parties alleged electronic signature to a contract. The Court determined that while the party had printed his name in an electronic communication, other communications had determined that there had not been “a meeting of the minds,” or a final agreement as to terms.

Even with this this cautionary case, most of the time electronic signatures will be acceptable for medical records.  If the party signing gives indications of some doubt about what is being signed, you might want to get the document signed in your facility.

By Matt Kinley, Esq.

 

 

PHYSICIAN OFFICE COMPLIANCE: PHYSICIANS SHOULD PREPARE

Compliance in Physician Offices

Compliance guidance for physician practices was issued by the Office of Inspector General in 2000. Since that time, many physician practices, especially more complex specialty practices, have developed some sort of compliance plan. Compliance covers many areas of a healthcare practice.

Although compliance plans have not previously been mandatory, they have become “industry standard” as a way to minimize risks associated with health care regulations such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, the Medicare and Medicaid Fraud and Abuse Laws, Anti- kickback Statute, Civil Monetary Laws, False Claims Act, the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Act and all other state and federal statutes, regulations and directives that apply to the operation of a complex physician’s practice.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, in section 6401, requires Health and Human Services and the Office of Inspector General to promulgate regulations that require most healthcare providers and suppliers to establish compliance programs. The compliance programs are intended to be “effective in preventing and detecting criminal, civil, and administrative violations” under the Medicare and Medicaid laws and other laws that govern operations.

Under the Affordable Care Act, physicians and group practices, will be required to establish compliance programs as a condition of enrollment in the Medicare program.HHS is required to issue regulations creating a timetable and basic core compliance program requirement.

Physician groups should begin the process of establishing compliance programs as soon as possible and not wait for final regulations. Compliance programs are a good way for physician practices to reduce risk associated with fraud and abuse and other legal matters that present risk to their operations. It makes sense for physicians to begin development now to provide ample time for creation of appropriately scaled policies and input from various personnel in the group.

It will not be sufficient to adopt pre-written compliance policies. Rather, physician offices must establish a continuing system of review for their office. Practices may need to be modified based upon their specialization. The seven core elements of effective compliance programs have been released by the Office of Inspector General, including the Physician Practice Guidelines.
A compliance program requires the physician to perform a risk assessment in their organization and document the outcomes of that assessment. The risk assessment could take many forms. Compliance professionals talk about a “gap analysis” which is an approach to help determine the vulnerabilities of your organization. Areas of risk provide emphasis to appropriate areas of risk that are identified through your risk assessment.
The seven areas of emphasis include:
1. Adoption of written guidelines and policies to promote the organization’s commitment to compliance;
2. Identification and appointment of a high ranking individual within the organization to serve as compliance officer;
3. Establishment of anonymous reporting systems, preferably through multiple pathways, to encourage individuals to make complaints regarding compliance items without fear of retaliation;
4. Effective education and training programs for all levels of employees and others with close relationships to the organization;
5. Ongoing auditing systems to assess the effectiveness of the compliance program and to provide input into areas that require additional emphasis;
6. Mechanisms to enforce the requirements of the compliance program and to discipline employees for violations of the organization’s commitment to compliance; and
7. An ongoing system of program modification based upon audit, feedback and experience that can further adapt the compliance policies to the specific issues faced by the organization.

By Matt Kinley, Esq

GO GREEN TO ATTRACT MARKET SHARE

Physicians Need to Stand Out

Physicians who are completing new construction should consider designating their development as green construction. While there is not legislative guidance in for green development in the healthcare arena, there is the Green Guide for Healthcare.

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According to the guide, it is “healthcare sector’s first quantifiable, sustainable design toolkit integrating enhanced environmental and health principles and practices into the planning, design, construction and maintenance of facilities….[it] provides the healthcare sector with a voluntary, self-certifying metric toolkit of best practices that designers, owners, and operators can use to guide and evaluate their progress towards high performance healing environments.performance healing environments.

The guide is a project of the non-profit organizations Health Care Without Harm  and Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems.

Posted by Matt Kinley, Esq.

 

Home Healthcare: What to know about trust administration

This article was originally published on the LivHome Blog.

The Rules of Trust Administration
Top Ten Trust Administration Rules to Keep You out of Trouble
By Mark Doyle, Esq. and Monica Goel, Esq., Partners at Tredway, Lumsdaine & Doyle

People have become educated to know that estate planning is important. Without it, your life savings and estate will go through the cost and expense of probate court. With estate planning, you can do advanced tax planning to avoid the cost and expense of probate, avoid costly estate taxes, and ensure smooth transition of assets to your heirs.

Trust administration is just as important. When someone passes away, it’s imperative that the proper trust administration is done to carry out the terms of the Trust. This is demonstrated in the recent Wall Street Journal article “When Dad Amasses a Fortune.”
Now more than ever, it’s important to understand how trust administration works.  Here are 10 simple rules to follow:

1. Determine:  Who is the client?

It is extremely important to know who your client is. If you are meeting with the Successor Trustee of a Trust, meet with them alone. Do not meet with beneficiaries and give them the impression that you represent them as well or the “Trust.” You represent the Trustee of the Trust.

When a non-client believes that an attorney is their attorney, there is a risk that the non-client is now owed fiduciary duties by that attorney. If representation of the non-client presents a conflict of interests with the attorney’s current clients, then the attorney may be facing another potential ethical violation in representing conflicting interests without proper disclosure, or alternatively, the attorney is forced to withdraw from representing both clients whose interests’ conflict. Thus, it is just as important for an attorney identify to whom they owe fiduciary duties as it is for the attorney to identify to whom they do not owe such duties in order to prevent an unintended attorney/client relationship.

2. Avoid Conflicts of Interest

Be wary of known, unknown, and actual conflict of interest. You cannot represent both the Trustee and beneficiaries of the Trust. Make sure to obtain a conflict waiver if representing co-trustees. Be sure they understand that you will have to withdraw as counsel if a conflict arises between them. If you are the drafting estate planning attorney of the Trust, you cannot represent beneficiaries in their attempt to contest the Trust. Be cautious if it appears you may be a percipient witness in the matter.
An attorney has the following duties, among others, to the client he or she represents: undivided loyalty, avoiding representing adverse interests, keeping the client informed, and maintaining client confidences. Undivided loyalty and avoiding representation of conflicting interests goes hand in hand. A conflict of interest is broadly defined as a situation that interferes with a lawyer’s ability to fulfill basic duties to a client. State Bar Formal Opinion No. 1982-69.

Conflicts of interest may arise in probate and trust proceedings because of the interrelatedness of parties and the multiple roles of individual parties and beneficiaries, fiduciaries, or business associates. Consideration of potential conflicts is particularly important, because, as is common, the attorney may have represented the decedent, decedent’s spouse or family members or consulted with decedent in business transactions and these parties may have conflicting interests with regard to decedent’s estate. In trust and probate cases in particular, a conflict of interest may arise after the representation has been accepted, requiring independent counsel for the various interested persons.

3. Know the Process

We break down the trust administration process into 3 stages:
1. Notification and Marshaling Assets
2. Inventory & Appraisal
3. Allocation or Distribution

On the death of settlor/trustee, Probate Code Section 16061.7 requires that the Successor Trustee send out a notification to all heirs at law regarding their rights to obtain copies of the Trust documents and contest them. The Trustee is required to give Notice to all beneficiaries under the Trust and all heirs of the decedent. This Notice is required to be sent within 60 days of the decedent’s death. Upon the first death, the successor Trustee is only required to provide the irrevocable terms of the Trust. Some attorneys send the terms of the Trust with the Notice, although not required. If any possible litigation is anticipated, the Notification should be sent via certified mail.

It is important to obtain a new tax payer identification number for the Trust as the assets cannot remain in the social security number of the decedent nor in that of the Trustee. Complete the IRS Form SS-4. This form is required to be executed by the successor trustee prior to obtaining a taxpayer identification number for any subtrust(s) which are required to be funded. The successor Trustee will appoint the attorney as the “Third Party Designee” in order to obtain the new identification number over the IRS website.

During the initial client meeting, you should have been provided with most of the date of death statements requested in your initial confirmation letter. However, it is unlikely that any appraisals have been completed.

If an estate tax return is anticipated to be filed, a certified appraisal should be obtained based on the market value of any real property as of the date of death. Any stock holdings are valued based on the average of the high and low stock price on the date of death. The Trustee may also need to obtain the value of specific items of personal property of the decedent, such as coins, stamps, jewelry, vehicles, farm equipment, art and antiques. In determining the title of the various assets, you will want to determine if any small estate affidavits need to be prepared under Probate Code Section 13100. If a probate needs to be commenced or a petition under Hegstaad could remedy any assets not held properly in the name of the Trust.

Affidavits Re: Death of a Trustee or Co-Trustee must be recorded to allow new Successor Trustee to take title to property. Declarations must be recorded in the County where the decedent owned property. The County Assessor requires a Preliminary Change in Ownership Report to prevent reassessment upon change in Trustee. Claim for Reassessment Exclusions for Transfers Between Parents and Children must be submitted separately to each County where the decedent owned property passing to children as beneficiaries. These forms should be sent via certified mail and request the assessor confirm and return a copy of the same as proof of receipt. Failure to timely submit these forms can result in reassessment of real property and a substantial increase in annual property taxes. California Proposition 58 permits exclusion from reassessment of real property passing to children limited to the principle residence of the parent and or the first $1,000,000 of other real property. A similar exemption is available for transfers between grandparents and grandchildren only when the parent of the grandchild has predeceased the grandparent and the deceased parent was not married at the time of death.

Trust Certifications and instructions need to be provided to any financial institutions managing accounts in the name of the Trust. Since the surviving spouse is most likely named as a Co-Trustee on the accounts, the re-registration should simply involve removing the deceased spouse’s name and changing the taxpayer identification number. Not all financial institutions have the same policies and the successor trustee may be required to complete new account applications and establish new accounts.

Be sure to conclude the administration with either a sub-trust allocation agreement or distribution agreement. Strongly advise Trustees to prepare and circulate a Distribution Agreement. These agreements set forth distribution provisions. They often contains waiver of formal accounting. They set forth the value of Trust assets and distributions to individual beneficiaries or sub-trusts. When making distributions, they contain release of liability for Trustee and provides for final trust termination.

4. Know your Limits

Only take cases you are comfortable handling. If the matter requires litigation or tax expertise which you don’t have, you may need to refer the case out or associate in counsel. Do not take cases you are not experienced in handling.

5. Communicate
Communicate with your client. Make sure they understand their fiduciary duties to all beneficiaries, keep meticulous records for an accounting, and invest prudently.
Beneficiaries of an irrevocable Trust are entitled to an accounting of the Trust assets at least annually. This accounting can be waived in writing and is not required if the sole trust beneficiary and the trustee are the same person. Other people who have a future interest in the trust, even though the interest is remote, may demand and receive an accounting each year. Trust beneficiaries also have the right to request certain information such as assets on hand, sales, purchases, etc., from the trustee.

The successor trustee(s) should be advised to gather all of the decedent’s mail. Provide the post office with a certified death certificate and copies of the trustee provisions of the Trust. In this regard, a Trust Certification should suffice. The mail is essential to gathering as much information as possible regarding the assets of the decedent, especially if the decedent did not keep organized files. Request the successor trustee to bring as much information as possible to the initial meeting. The determination of their relevance can be determined by the attorney.
6. Act with Diligence

Time is of the essence. Be sure to follow up with your client and be cognizant of deadlines including the due date for the estate tax return and deadline to exercise a disclaimer. Although the length of administration is a “reasonableness period,” the longer it drags out the more likely suspicion and litigation are likely to erupt.
7. Identify Sub Trusts and Need for Administrative Trust

Trust administration is in most cases a transfer of assets which is by its nature a taxable event.
Income produced by trust assets will continue during the period of trust administration so a timely decision should be made regarding how income will be reported. Usually obtaining valuation of the assets and handling of bequests will prevent an immediate funding of marital, bypass or children’s sub trusts. In the meantime a decision must be made between either the pass through method or administrative trust method.

Under the pass through method the trust is ignored and the all trust income is taxed to the sub trusts or beneficiaries beginning with the date of death. If the estate is not large or if funding will occur within the calendar year the pass through approach saves costs and administrative time.

The administrative trust approach treats the trust estate as a separate taxpayer between the date of death and the date that the separate trusts are funded. Under this approach a separate taxpayer identification number is obtained and a 1041 fiduciary tax return filed for the administrative trust.

7. Comply with Tax Filing Requirements

Under IRC 6075(a) an estate tax return IRS Form 706 must be filed within nine months after the date of the decedent’s death. Although the return is due within nine months, an automatic filing extension of an additional six months is available. The automatic extension does relief the taxpayer of the obligation to pay estate tax due within nine months of the decedent’s death.
While a return is only due for a decedent whose gross estate exceeds the applicable exclusion amount (currently $5,250,000.00) other factors including the portability election may require filing. See Below. Generation Skipping Tax Elections are also required on a timely filed estate tax return.

9. Be Aware of the New Portability Election.

The new portability election IRC 2010(c) allows the surviving spouse to add the deceased spouse’s unused exemption amount at the second death.
This is some cases will allow a married couple to avoid using the traditional A/B trust. It gives married couples more flexibility in deciding how to use their exclusion amounts. Under IRC 23 For example, the first spouse to die could give everything to the other spouse without incurring estate tax by virtue of the unlimited marital deduction and the estate could transfer the unused exclusion to the survivor to use in making gifts or at death. However, use of a traditional two-trust plan combining a marital deduction trust with a credit shelter trust may be preferable. A credit shelter trust can prevent post-transfer appreciation in the value of the assets from being subject to estate tax on the survivors’ death. By contrast, an exclusion transferred to a surviving spouse is fixed and may not be sufficient to shield post-transfer appreciation from tax. In addition, a credit-shelter trust can protect assets from being squandered by the surviving spouse and protect against creditors. To take advantage of the portability election the surviving spouse must file a timely estate tax return for the deceased spouse.

10. Understand the Impact of Trust Funding on Income/Property Tax

Under IRC 1014 the basis of property inherited is stepped up to fair market value at the date of decedent’s death. For a couple in California with community property the entire value of the community estate receives a step up. Exceptions to this important benefit include retirement assets and assets gifted prior to death. When administering a trust also note that assets funded into an exemption trust will not receive another step up on the surviving spouse’s death.
In California careful attention needs to also be paid to avoid a real property tax assessment on the transfer to heirs. Staying within the parent child exclusion rules for Prop 13 is critical and appropriate claims should be filed with any title transfers.

 

 

 

 

What’s the difference: Physician Assistant v. Nurse Practioner

As the need for health care has expanded, there has been an increase in demand for employees and professionals in the medical field. Therefore, there are a variety of health care jobs and careers. Two key positions in the health care field that have contributed to addressing the looming physician gap are Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners. Because both job descriptions have notable similarities, there can be some confusion between the differences in purpose and the roles between a Physician Assistant and Nurse Practitioner. However, there are notable differences.

In California, both Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners are regulated according to state regulations. The main difference between a Physician Assistant and Nurse Practitioner is the education received. Physician Assistants are trained more similarly to that of a Physician where a Nurse Practitioner skills are advanced under the nursing-centric education model. Physician Assistants get extensive training in treatment and diagnosing ailments for patients and conversely, the nursing-centric education model that Nurse Practitioners are exposed to focuses on a holistic approach to management of patients.

A Physician Assistant is a medical professional who has been authorized to practice medicine. Specifically, a Physician Assistant can conduct physical examinations, diagnose patients, provide treatment including setting broken bones, obtain medical histories, perform procedures, assist in surgery, and make regular rounds in hospitals and nursing homes. Physician Assistants must be certified to practice. Generally, masters programs for Physician Assistants are modeled on the medical school curriculum combining both classroom lectures and clinical training. Physician Assistants must be supervised by a Physician as established by Title 16 of the California Code of Regulations Section 1399.545. Moreover, a Physician Assistant may only provide medical services in which they are competent to perform and which are consistent with their education (Cal. Code Regs. tit. 16, § 1399.540).

On the other hand, a Nurse Practitioner is a registered nurse with an advanced education—usually a masters degree in nursing. A Nurse Practitioner specializes in disease prevention, promotion of health and education, and diagnosis and management of chronic diseases. Nurse Practitioners utilize a holistic approach to management of patients and overall care. Title 22 of the California Code of Regulation Section 51170.3 requires that Nurse Practitioners be licensed and certified under the Board of Registered Nursing. Moreover, Nurse Practitioners can further specialize and hold themselves out as family or pediatric Nurse Practitioners (Cal. Code Regs. tit. 22, § 51170.3). Unlike that of a Physician Assistant, in California, Nurse Practitioners do not need to be under direct supervision of a Physician.

As the demand for medical treatment grows, the importance of mid-level practitioners including Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners increases. It is apparent that there are overlapping skills between the two careers, however, a Physician Assistant concentrates on medical treatment whereas a Nurse Practitioner provides overall care management for patients.