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Non-Physician Practitioner Bill Fails in Florida Senate

May 29, 2019

Proponents are not giving up the fight to expand the role of non-physician health care practitioners in Florida after a bill that would have allowed practitioners to work independently of doctors.

House Bill 821  failed to clear the Florida State Senate but supporters are not giving up.

“We’ll try again for the 2020 legislative session,” said Brandon Miller, legislative assistant to bill sponsor, State Rep. Cary Pigman (R-55). 

 Supporters say Florida’s health care challenges remain formidable.

“Presently, the state of Florida ranks 41st in the nation for health care access and affordability, with the highest Medicare readmission rates in the country,” said Arlene Wright, president of the Florida Nurse Practitioner Network. “The data demonstrating cost-effective quality care by nurse practitioners has been evident and proven in the 22 states that have full practice authority. In those states that operate with practice expansion, there has been a significant decline in the number or people lacking a primary care provider.” The American Association of Nurse Practitioners defines full-practice authority as evaluating patients, diagnosing, ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests, initiating and managing treatments and prescribing medicine.

State Faces Provider Shortage

The bill is a cost-effective measure to meet the state’s increasing demand for health care services, especially among Florida’s elderly population, rural residents, and the poor, Wright says.

“Modernizing antiquated health care statutes gives patients accessibility and choice,” Wright said. “It also decreases preventable delays in care, especially for the outlying, underserved areas.”

Preventative health care provided by nurse practitioners allows people to avoid needing much more expensive care later on, Wright says. When people cannot get the preventative health care that is routinely provided by nurse practitioners in many other states, they often end up making costly trips to the emergency room.

“The cost savings are reflected in the decreased utilization of emergency services for nonemergency health care issues and unnecessary referrals,” said Wright. “Ensuring that the population has access to preventative health care services will decrease hospitalization rates and reduce length of stays.”

The bill would have significantly increased access to health care services, Wright says.

“It would have opened up the door for access and provided an avenue of choice, particularly among the most vulnerable of populations and those that would otherwise not have care,” said Wright.

Clarifying the Roles

Opposition to the bill arises largely from misinformation about nurse practitioners, Wright says.

“As House Speaker Oliva mentioned in his comments post-session, the majority of the opposition arises from perception,” Wright said. “There are many misconceptions that non-physician providers would be practicing outside their scope, which is erroneous.”

A key to increasing access to care is to allow all types of medical professionals to provide all the services they are capable of performing successfully, Wright says.

“The goal is that all providers be provided with the opportunity to practice to the full extent of their training, education, and licensure and work towards a common ground to unlock the doors for the citizens of Florida to receive quality, accessible, timely care,” Wright said.

Ashley Herzog (aebristow85@gmail.comwrites from Avon Lake, Ohio.

Author
Ashley Herzog writes from Avon Lake, Ohio.
aebristow85@gmail.com