Massachusetts Coalition of Nurse Practitioners Files SAVE Bill
Friday, January 18, 2019
BOSTON – January 18, 2019 – Senator Marc Pacheco and Representative Paul Donato this week filed Senate and House versions of a bill on behalf of The Massachusetts Coalition of Nurse Practitioners (MCNP) to address the state’s rising health care costs and patient access issues. Referred to as the SAVE Bill, An Act to Support Access, Value and Equity in Health Care will allow patients to have increased and unrestricted access to Nurse Practitioner care, will help decrease health care costs and address inequities in access to care for vulnerable populations.
Despite leading the nation in healthcare reform initiatives, the cost of health care is on the rise Massachusetts while patients struggle with lack of access to primary and specialty care. According to MA Health Policy Commission 2018 Annual Health Cost Trends data, lack of timely access to care continues to force patients to rely on more costly services provided in emergency room settings and substantially increases the cost of care paid by the Commonwealth.
Patients with mental health needs and substance use disorder face even greater access issues. As the opioid epidemic continues to plague the Commonwealth as a public health crisis, patients with substance use disorder are facing long wait times and limited access to medication assisted treatment (MAT) programs, with higher opioid related deaths in geographically underserved areas.
As registered nurses with advanced Master’s or doctoral level education and national certification in advanced practice nursing specialties, Nurse Practitioners in Massachusetts could be more effectively utilized to address these challenges if not restricted by antiquated mandates in the Massachusetts Nurse Practice Act. Nurse Practitioners provide comprehensive health care services including performing physical examinations, ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests, and treating and managing acute, episodic, and chronic conditions. While nurse practitioners in Massachusetts have legal authority to prescribe medications, current Massachusetts regulations require a supervising physician to oversee their prescribing practices. Massachusetts is one of only 13 states in the nation and the only state in New England with such restrictive licensing requirements for Nurse Practitioners.
States that have removed unnecessary and restrictive licensing requirements for nurse practitioners have witnessed an increase in the number of practicing nurse practitioners and expanded health care access for rural and vulnerable populations with increased frequency of routine checkups, lower hospitalization rates and significantly fewer ER visits for non-emergencies. The average cost of a visit with a nurse practitioner can be between 20 and 35 percent lower than the average cost of an office-based visit with a physician – without compromising quality of care. The 2009 RAND report, Controlling Health Care Spending in Massachusetts: An Analysis of Options, estimated that between 2010 and 2020, Massachusetts could have saved from 4.2 to 8.4 billion dollars through scope of practice reform and greater reliance on NPs and PAs in the delivery of primary care.
“Passing the SAVE Bill will provide much needed access to care for patients and savings to the Commonwealth,” said Dr. Stephanie Ahmed, State Legislative Policy Director for the MCNP. “In failing to use Nurse Practitioners to the full extent of their education and training to optimize the state’s healthcare delivery system, Massachusetts is ignoring a critical resource and missing a valuable opportunity. For many patients, the Nurse Practitioner is already the face they are used to seeing in the office, the person answering their calls, and overseeing their care and treatment. Passing the SAVE Bill and granting Full Practice Authority to Nurse Practitioners would mean more patients can have access to their high-quality care and at a lower cost for everyone.”