Expand Access to Quality Health Care in Louisiana

Expand Access to Quality Health Care in Louisiana

One of the most important silver linings of the COVID-19 pandemic, is testing firsthand which regulations are necessary and which ones are not. Case in point is the outdated requirement that nurse practitioners obtain collaborative practice agreements to provide care to the people of Louisiana.

Collaborative practice agreements are a government requirement that various nursing professions must work with and pay tens of thousands of dollars to physicians to be able to practice services they already have training for. This requirement was wisely lifted for advanced practice registered nurses, including certified nurse midwives, certified registered anesthetists, clinical nurse specialists, and nurse practitioners via emergency order on March 11th of 2020. The emergency order expanded access to quality care for patients during the COVID-19 pandemic when the health care system was severely strained.

Furthermore, the emergency order proved that advanced practice registered nurses don’t need collaborative practice agreements to safely serve the citizens of Louisiana.

According to a study from the Brookings Institute, 23 states allow for advanced practice registered nurses to practice at their full scope without the collaborative agreements. Patients in states where there are no collaborative agreements have greater access to quality care at lower costs then states with collaborative agreements.

Louisiana is right in the middle of the pack when it comes to physicians per 10,000 residents. But like many states, physicians are concentrated in urban areas. St. Tammany, Jefferson, East Baton Rouge, Caddo, and Orleans parishes each have more than 35 physicians per 10,000 residents. By contrast, 15 parishes have fewer than five physicians per 10,000 residents. Many of the parishes which have fewer than 5 physicians per 10,000 have a significant number of advanced practice registered nurses.

Increased access to medical professionals leads to better health care outcomes for patients.  This increase is due to the fact that the choice many Louisianians  are faced with isn’t between a physician or an advanced practice registered nurse but between a nurse or no care at all.

Furthermore, Medicaid expansion has put a major strain on Louisiana’s budget. A 2017 study found that expanding the ability for advanced practice registered nurses to treat patients led to a twelve to fourteen percent reduction in the dollar amount of claims by Medicaid patients. For states with large Medicaid populations like Louisiana this translates to tens of millions of dollars saved.

At the end of the day, the proof is in the pudding. Like many regulations lifted over the last year, the results have shown that there was little reason for these regulations in the first place. Ending the collaborative practice agreements has been proven time and time again to increase access to quality health care. Louisiana should repeal this practice for good and allow nurses to do what they were trained to do, help people.

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