House Speaker Jose Oliva (R) has made reforming Florida’s health care system a top priority. This week, he moved a huge step closer to that goal when the House passed legislation to allow highly trained nurse practitioners to provide many important services without a supervising physician.
Legislation expanding the scope of practice for these highly skilled professionals has been advanced in the past, but is usually met with strong opposition from physician groups, who don’t like the idea of nurse practitioners being allowed on their “turf” – even though they have the necessary skills, physicians aren’t really needed for those kinds of services, and Florida faces a shortage of many kinds of health care providers.
“That is why this year we will pass comprehensive health care reform. No single policy will be the solution. A truly comprehensive approach is what is required,” Speaker Oliva said during his opening remarks on the first day of session. He went on to say that allowing “highly trained and skilled nurse practitioners to practice to the full extent of their training” would be an integral part of that approach.
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Following the House vote this week, the Florida Association of Nurse Practitioners issued a statement praising the passage of the proposal. “This important legislation will help modernize Florida’s health care laws by allowing nurse practitioners to better use their skills to meet our state’s medical needs,” said Susan Lynch, CEO of the group. “We urge the Florida Senate to join in increasing access to health care for millions of Floridians.”
While this reform has been touted by free market business organizations such as The James Madison Institute and the Florida Chamber of Commerce as a viable way to increase access to health care in the state, the legislation has yet to have a hearing in the Florida Senate this year.
The James Madison Institute has been calling for this reform since at least 2017. “Greater utilization of nonphysician health care professionals will help fill the gap expected as a result of Florida’s projected physician shortage – a gap of more than 4,500 doctors over the next 20 years – while increasing access to care,” the think tank reported that year.
In the last weeks of session, supporters are calling on the Florida Senate to consider the benefits of enhancing access to quality health care provided by nurse practitioners. Speaker Oliva is on to something important that can expand access to health care for all Floridians – now its up to the Senate to send this smart idea to the Governor.