Tamara Demko: Legislature should ease restrictions on nurse practitioners

Think about your last visit to your primary care physician. You likely had to schedule an appointment weeks in advance. Then I’m sure you waited a considerable amount of time before seeing a nurse, and again before seeing your doctor.

Have you noticed the wait times seem longer lately? One reason is that Florida is facing a shortage of primary care providers, and it may leave some citizens without the basic care they need.

Perhaps even larger barriers to care in Florida are the restrictions placed on the state’s 15,000 advanced registered nurse practitioners (ARNPs), who are qualified to provide much of that primary care.

In fact, ARNPs could provide up to 80 percent of the primary care needs for patients, if Florida did not have legislative mandates preventing them from practicing to the full extent of their training. To address the drastic shortage of primary care providers facing Florida, the Legislature should look to ARNPs to fill the primary care needs of Florida patients.

ARNPs have the necessary skills and expertise to provide basic care in Florida. They are highly trained, have a graduate degree and must meet national certification standards, including extensive practical training. ARNPs provide care at a lower cost than physician-care. Allowing ARNPs to use the full extent of that training and expertise will reduce health care costs for all Floridians and increase their access to quality care.

Forty-nine states are more permissive in certain aspects of ARNP practice than in Florida, and it’s time we follow in their footsteps.

Many of these states have adjusted their ARNP practice restrictions in response to similar physician shortages like the one occurring in Florida. For example, some states are allowing ARNPs to practice independently of a physician, giving them the ability to bill for Medicaid services, and permitting them to set up their own primary care practice.

Allowing Florida ARNPs to do some of these things would open up care for many Floridians, and save the state millions of tax dollars. Florida could save up to $44 million a year in Medicaid costs alone if ARNPs and physician assistants (PAs) could practice with fewer restrictions. If Florida’s ARNPs and PAs were permitted to practice to the full extent of their training and education, the state could save up to $339 million across the entire health care system.

The ARNPs will tell you that they are qualified and ready to provide primary care to patients if only the Legislature would allow them to do so.

Florida TaxWatch recommends removing barriers to practice and care for ARNPs.  Through clarifications and adjustments to practice laws and regulations for ARNPs, Florida can save money, increase access to care, and improve quality of care for Florida’s families today while building the foundation for a sustainable system of care tomorrow.

Guest Author


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