Florida TaxWatch: Expanded nurse-practitioner powers will save state $339M

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Permitting Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) to provide care to the extent of their training could both expand access to healthcare and save Florida taxpayers as much as $339 million a year, according to a new briefing from the independent non-profit Florida TaxWatch.

In Diagnosing the Debate: Nurse Practitioner Scope of Practice, the government watchdog group calls on lawmakers to revisit the regulatory barriers to nurse practitioner-provided care.

Restrictions placed on Florida’s estimated 15,000 ARNPs who are qualified to offer much of that primary care, says report author Tamara Demko, may be creating even greater  barriers to care and depriving Floridians of valuable, needed resources.

“Florida’s health care needs will continue to increase, and every health care practitioner plays an important role in addressing those needs,” added Demko, who is Director of the TaxWatch Center for Health & Aging.

“Improving the quality of care for Florida’s families through increased access to professionally trained APRNs will ensure our state has the foundation for a sustainable health care system for the future,” Florida TaxWatch CEO Dominic M. Calabro said in a statement. “APRNs can fill a need stemming from Florida’s shortage of doctors and provide much of the primary care that patients are not receiving due to this shortage.”

The Legislature is considering several bills to enable advanced registered nurse practitioners to prescribe specific treatments supervision of a doctor. Supporters contend that allowing nurse practitioners to work independently of doctors could be one answer to the shortage of primary-care physicians in Florida. They also say nurse practitioners already provide a majority of the care authorized by the bill.

After examining the continuing debate between APRN advocates and physician groups such as the Florida Medical Association, which opposes the expansion of powers, the government watchdog group suggests a brief transitional period, where expanded function can be monitored in “access-challenged” areas. Increased reporting can provide “solid data collection.”

Diagnosing the Debate: Nurse Practitioner Scope of Practice is now available online.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.