NPs Touted as Primary Care Shortage Solution—Yet Again

Nurse practitioners are the solution to health care provider shortages, or so said a rally cry of an op-ed published by The Hill this week.

Nurse practitioners are the solution to health care provider shortages, or so said Sophia L. Thomas, President of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, in an op-ed published by The Hill this week.

The op-ed, which can only be described as a rally cry for full practice authority, points out the strain of the primary care physician shortage, one that is estimated to fall short of patient demand by 120,000 physicians by the year 2030.

In contrast, however, the NP profession is growing, expected to increase by 6.8 percent annually between 2016 and 2030, with more than three-quarters of NPs trained in primary care areas.

“There are more than 270,000 nurse practitioners (NPs) licensed in the United States, and they are an under-utilized asset in the struggle to strengthen and expand primary care access,” said Thomas. “While 40 percent of U.S. states authorize full practice authority (FPA) for NPs providing patients with full and direct access to NP care, unfortunately a whopping 60 percent of states have yet to modernize their state licensure laws to grant the same access. In those states, outdated regulations restrict NP practice rights, which in turn reduces access to care for patients.”

In addition to expanding FPA laws, Thomas calls for states to allow NPs “to sign the forms for the care they deliver instead of being forced to get redundant third-party signatures,” as well as to “create flexible and sustainable reimbursement methods to ensure that NP care is covered and reimbursable.”

Thomas closes the piece by saying, “NPs are uniquely qualified to provide high-quality, comprehensive and cost-effective primary health care to all patients. It’s time that policymakers at both the federal and state level take the steps needed to ensure that all Americans, regardless of where they live, have access to the primary care they deserve.”

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