SACRAMENTO, Calif.—A Democratic California state lawmaker introduced a package of bills to address an expected doctor shortage as the state prepares to insure millions of new patients under federal healthcare reforms. State Sen. Ed Hernandez said his bills would expand services that can be provided by nurse practitioners, optometrists and pharmacists in order to help alleviate a shortage of primary-care physicians, particularly in rural areas and inner cities dominated by minorities. Hernandez, an optometrist, said his bills would allow nurse practitioners to see Medicaid and Medicare patients even if the doctors they work for do not. Optometrists could check for high blood pressure, and pharmacists could order laboratory testing to detect diabetes. “Here in the state of California, we have a capacity issue,” he said. “We have a workforce shortage.” The California Medical Association opposes the bills, said spokeswoman Molly Weedn. The group representing 35,000 doctors believes the state should focus on building more medical schools, adding residency slots and expanding programs that help doctors pay off student loans in exchange for working in underserved communities. Hernandez, who unveiled his bills at a safety net clinic in Sacramento, said the measures are not meant to replace doctors but to increase access to care for ethnic and poor communities as California's healthcare system braces for a huge influx. Hernandez isn't the only lawmaker trying to tackle the provider gap. State Sen. Fran Pavley, a Democrat, has put forth a bill seeking to expand services that physician assistants can provide.