Measure improving health care access passes first hurdle

Staff Writer

A bill aimed at improving Oklahomans’ access to health care services by allowing the state’s nurse practitioners the freedom to serve more patients passed its first legislative hurdle today.

House Bill 1013, by Rep. Josh Cockroft, R-Wanette, and Sen. AJ Griffin, R-Guthrie, would eliminate the outdated and unnecessary requirement that nurse practitioners sign a collaborative agreement with a physician. The measure passed the House Business, Commerce & Tourism Committee on Wednesday on a 12-2 vote.

“We are grateful to the members of the committee for recognizing that nurse practitioners have a role to play in addressing the critical shortage of health care providers in Oklahoma,” said Toni Pratt-Reid, president of the Association of Oklahoma Nurse Practitioners. “Nurse practitioners are already providing these services to Oklahomans every day, but current law limits the number of nurse practitioners who can work in our state and creates financial barriers to opening new clinics or expanding existing ones.”

The Association of Oklahoma Nurse Practitioners (AONP) is organizing a legislative day on Feb. 14 to visit lawmakers and advocate for the measure. Nurse practitioners, students and the public are invited to attend. For more information about that event, visit npofoklahoma.com/legislative.

Under current state law, a physician can only sign agreements with two nurse practitioners, placing a hard cap on the number of nurse practitioners who are able to work in the state. Some nurse practitioners must also pay thousands of dollars a month for those agreements, even though the physician may not see a nurse practitioner’s patients or review their charts.

Oklahoma is one of just 12 states that still require all nurse practitioners to have agreements with a physician, while 21 states, including New Mexico and Colorado, offer nurse practitioners full practice authority. The remaining states have regulatory schemes that fall between full practice authority and restricted practice.

Most recently, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced that it would allow nurse practitioners, certified nurse specialists and certified nurse midwives to work with full practice authority in Veterans Affairs facilities in all 50 states.

“Nothing in this bill changes a nurse practitioner’s scope of practice,” Pratt-Reid said. “This bill will empower nurse practitioners to better care for Oklahomans across the state who are driving long distances and waiting days or weeks for appointments to get the care they need.”

HB 1013 will next be considered by the full House of Representatives.

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