SACRAMENTO–As a commissioner on the California Future Health Workforce Commission (Commission), chair of Assembly Health Committee and a health care provider for almost 30 years, Assemblymember Jim Wood (D-Santa Rosa) has introduced AB 890, legislation that will allow nurse practitioners (NPs) to practice to the full extent of their education and training in order to ensure direct access to millions of Californians who often struggle to find health care providers.
“Working in health care for as many years as I have, I’ve seen the need to maximize the education and training of health care providers to meet the needs of consumers throughout this state,” said Wood. “When California, a state that usually leads in innovation and progressive thinking, hasn’t caught up with the 22 states that have already made this change, I think it’s time we recognize the value NPs can bring to patients and the entire health care system.”
A significant body of research shows that a shortage of primary health care providers, especially in rural and underserved areas, results in lower utilization and greater numbers of hospitalizations and emergency room visits. The Commission’s report identifies as a priority maximizing the role of NPs to fill the gap in primary care by expanding NP education and reforming scope of practice regulations so that NP can achieve full practice authority after a transitional period of collaboration with a physician or experienced NP.
The Commission’s report makes the following statements:
Full practice authority for NPs would result in cost savings to Californians from reduced avoidable emergency department stays and hospitalizations, and the lower costs of retail clinic use and primary care.
Removing scope of practice restrictions would increase the growth rate of NP supply by 25 percent. Between 2010 and 2017, California’s NP supply grew 39 percent; with full practice authority, the growth rate would have been 49 percent, and the state would have 1,500 NPs more than it does today.
If full practice authority is achieved by 2020, there would be nearly 50,000 few revisits to emergency departments for ambulatory sensitive conditions, resulting in cost savings of more than $58 million per year.
“The full practice authority of NPs will result in primary care that is comparable to that of a physician, without question,” said Wood. “This has been shown through research and is already happening in 22 other states. I won’t ignore those facts. Improving our health care system and expanding access is a multifaceted challenge. Yes, we need more physician residency programs, more loan forgiveness opportunities and more pipeline projects to recruit medical students from underserved areas and, at the same time, we must recognize the value NPs with full practice authority will bring to the quality of care and the cost savings of care.”