By Skylar Zander and Vernon Langford
Florida led the country in meaningful health care reform in 2019 with repeal of the state’s anachronistic and harmful certificate-of-need law. Now our state policymakers can once again be champions for health care innovation.
In December, the House and Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee advanced House Bill 607, which would allow advanced practice registered nurses to make the best use of the full scope of their medical training.
Under current law, APRNs are prohibited from providing care to patients unless they are under the supervision of a licensed physician. Permitting APRNs to operate independently would expand access to quality, safe and affordable health to Floridians who need it most.
The United States is on the verge of a physician shortage. As many doctors approach retirement, there is an increased demand for qualified, trained medical professionals.
In our state alone, 278 regions are already experiencing physician shortages, including 30 underserved rural communities where a mere 2 percent of Florida’s doctors practice.
Without access to primary care providers who can diagnose and treat routine or minor ailments, this shortage could impose long-lasting and even fatal harm to individuals in regions with limited access.
But enacting HB 607 could help ease the blow of the physician shortage in our state.
Florida has more than 32,000 licensed APRNs who are fully trained and capable of providing many of the same services primary care physicians offer.
While state law requires physician supervision, many of those doctors don’t have regular contact with the APRNs they are supposed to oversee and are not even required to live in the country. But APRNs are still required to pay hefty monthly fees to their “supervisory” physicians, ranging as high as $5,000.
Critics argue that APRNs need close supervision in order to ensure the safety of patients. This is simply untrue.
The Federal Trade Commission’s 2014 report, Competition and the Regulation of Advanced Practice Nurses found that “Based on substantial evidence and experience, expert bodies have concluded that ARPNs are safe and effective as independent providers of many health care services within the scope of their training, licensure, certification, and current practice.”
A report by the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Treasury, and labor encouraged states to abolish these regulatory hurdles.
Allowing APRNs full practice authority not only benefits those in underserved areas, it’s also economically responsible. A 2018 report found that Florida could save as much as $9.5 billion in health care costs — almost $500 per Florida resident.
It would also contribute an additional $1 billion to the local economy through increased wages and creation of new jobs.
Many physicians have worked to prevent reform. But Rep. Cary Pigman, who introduced HB 607, spent years as an emergency-medicine physician and understands the importance of expanding access to care.
Already, 22 states and Washington, D.C., grant full practice authority to APRNs. It’s time for Florida to follow suit.
When Florida made historic strides in repealing the state’s certificate-of-need law last year, many thought it couldn’t be done. Others were worried that the changes would prove detrimental.
Both fears proved wrong. Since CON repeal has been implemented, new medical care facilities are already in the works, bringing more health care options to those who need them most.
Legislators should continue to support groundbreaking health care reform by allowing trained medical professionals to do the jobs they were trained to do.
Skylar Zander is state director for Americans for Prosperity-Florida. Vernon Langford is President of the Florida Association of Nurse Practitioners and the Co-Chair of the Florida Coalition of Advanced Practice Nurses