Monday, June 10, 2013

"Equal Work with Unequal Pay" Revisited

In a recent communique sent privately, I was asked about the meaning of  "equal work with unequal pay" from an earlier blog about pending legislation in California re SB 491, 492, and 493 where nurse practitioners, optometrists, and pharmacists would be equated with physicians. The writer asks "in what sense is the work of a nurse practitioner ever quite the same as the work of a board-certified neurologist?" The writer said "I personally would not be willing to pay a nurse practitioner as much as I would cheerfully pay my neurologist. How about you?"

I agree with the challenger that nurse practitioner education and training is not comparable to the training of a physician, much less  to a physician who  has also done additional specialty training. I agree with the writer.  I would not expect to pay the same for the lesser trained practitioner.

But since that wasn't the point of my editorial I'll take another whack at it. My point is that if SB 491 et al pass in California, the decision as to who gets paid and at what rate will pass into new and untested hands. Unless the nurses' union is asleep at the switch, once SB 491 passes, it can be expected that the nurses' union will lobby to make sure that the newly minted nurse-physicians get paid the same as graduate physicians. The argument will be a legal one, namely, that the legislature, having designated nurses as equivlalent to physicians, is now obligated to see that they get equivalent pay.

In this case I asked my challenger to explain why a certain physicians and surgeons organization wasn't lobbying against SB 491. I was told that the group was "focused on other things." My response is that if the Hernandez series,  SB 491, 492, and 493 get signed into law it won't be long before there are no "other things" on which to focus.

Physicians' groups should oppose SB 491 et al in the interest of making sure that optimal medical care remains the goal, not watered down versions thereof.  So far we know that the California Medical Association, the Union of American Physicians and Dentists, and the California Neurology Society have taken up the campaign and so have many individual physicians.

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