Changes to laws governing nurse practitioners in Pennsylvania could yield at least $6.4 billion in healthcare savings during the next 10 years, Duke University School of Law researchers found.
NPs in Pennsylvania must secure business contracts, dubbed collaborative agreements, with two physicians — a rule that offers no health benefits to patients, according to a news release from the Pennsylvania Coalition of Nurse Practitioners.
Proposed reform for full practice authority would seek to eliminate such rules and could increase the number of NPs in Pennsylvania by 13%, the news release said. Pennsylvania State Sen. Pat Vance (R-Cumberland) and State Rep. Jesse Topper (R-Bedford), introduced Senate Bill 717 and House Bill 765. The proposed legislation would modernize the law regarding NPs and make Pennsylvania a full-practice state.
“The research is clear: states that allow nurse practitioners to serve patients to the full extent of their education and training see healthcare costs go down, access go up, and patient health outcomes improve,” Kyle Jaep, one of the study’s authors, said in the news release. “Pennsylvania should move immediately to remove barriers that needlessly limit nurse practitioners.”
According to the study, the U.S. is facing a physician shortage of 20,400 by 2020. Granting NPs full practice authority would have positive impacts for states needing to increase their supply of primary care providers. It also would maintain high-quality healthcare and keep healthcare costs down, the study stated.
In Pennsylvania, nearly 35% of residents live in an area or population group with inadequate access to primary care, according to the study. More Pennsylvanians, those on Medicaid in particular, are looking toward NPs for their primary care needs, according to the study. NPs nationwide serve more diverse and underserved populations than other primary care providers and are more likely to treat the disabled and patients eligible for Medicare and Medicaid, the researchers noted.
Pennsylvania is one of 10 states that had the highest levels of per capita healthcare spending in 2009, researchers found, pointing out that allowing full practice authority is a way to address this issue without sacrificing quality. Nationwide, NPs provide acute care that is 20% less expensive than the same care given by physicians, the study said.
The proposed reform could result in additional savings on general types of care, such as physicals and well-baby visits, with consumers saving $12.7 billion over 10 years, the study stated.
“Pennsylvania should follow the lead of 21 other states and the District of Columbia and grant full practice authority to NPs,” the study’s authors concluded. “The existing barriers are unnecessary and waking a key source of primary care. Removing barriers is critical to ensuring access to high-quality care, managing health costs and improving health for all Pennsylvanians.”
Read the full study at http://www.scribd.com/doc/271474974/Nurse-Practitioners-The-Value-of-Full-Practice-Authority-in-Pennsylvania.
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