HB 1303: Expand the scope of practice for nurse practitioners

House Bill 1303, sponsored by Rep. Donnie Scoggin, would expand the scope of practice for nurse practitioners in Mississippi.

Currently, a nurse practitioner is required to enter into a collaborative agreement with a physician. This would exempt nurse practitioners from that requirement after 3,600 hours of practice.

Mississippi, like the country as a whole, is projected to face a shortage of physicians within the next decade. The National Institute of Health predicts that Mississippi will need an additional 3,709 doctors by 2030, a substantial increase from our current pool of 5,714 active physicians.

The math to hit this mark with new physicians becomes quite difficult when you realize that a full third of active physicians today are 60 or older, and likely to retire soon. But the number of physicians is not the only issue. Location matters. More than half of all active Mississippi physicians are clumped in four metropolitan areas, leaving vast swaths of rural population without access.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that states could reduce their physician shortages by two-thirds by easing restrictions that keep nurses from independently treating patients.

Additionally, studies show that patients have confidence in the care they receive from nurses. A Duke University study concluded that nurse practitioners provided comparable or superior primary care, better results, and equal or higher levels of patient satisfaction compared with physicians.

study by economists at Brandeis University found nurses charge patients 29 percent less for health evaluations and 11 percent less for in-patient care than physicians. That saves patients money. It also saves taxpayers money because lower costs mean lower expenditures for Medicare and Medicaid.

Researchers at the University of Rochester found the number of nurse practitioners serving areas suffering from primary care shortages increased 30 percent in states providing full practice authority. After Arizona enacted reforms to grant nurse practitioners full practice authority, the number of nurses serving rural communities increased 73 percent.

study by the Census Bureau and the University of Hawaii estimates adults are 11 percent more likely to receive a routine physical exam in states that expanded practice authority, while the rate of emergency room visits fell by more than 21 percent. As we all know by now, having access to a regular source of care that is not an emergency room is better for our health, and better for our wallets.

Reforms to allow nurse practitioners to practice to the full extent of their training have expanded care, cut costs, and saved lives. Twenty-two states, the District of Columbia, and the Veterans Health Administration have removed this nursing barrier. By enacting this legislation, Mississippi would join those states.

Empower Mississippi supports this legislation.

It has been referred to Public Health and Human Services. You can read the bill here.