The Massachusetts Coalition of Nurse Practitioners’ Discusses Healthcare Challenges Facing Massachusetts

On April 5, the Massachusetts Coalition of Nurse Practitioners (MCNP) hosted its annual Health Policy Breakfast, inviting nurse practitioners from across the state to discuss current health care challenges facing the Commonwealth and the goals of their bill, H.2451/S. 1257, An Act to Contain Health Care Costs and Improve Access to Value Based Nurse Practitioner Care as Recommended by the IOM and FTC.

Nurse practitioners were joined by co-sponsors of the bill Senator Marc Pacheco, Representative Paul Donato, Representative Kay Kahn and Representative Pat Haddad as well as Senator Walter Timilty, Representative Joan Meschino, and Representative Solomon Goldstein-Rose. The offices of Senator Mike Brady, Senator Jason Lewis, Representative Paul Brodeur, Representative Jay Kaufman, and Representative Jerald Parisella also came out in support of the nurse practitioners.

H. 2351/S. 1257 will allow nurse practitioners in Massachusetts to practice to the full extent of their education and training and will update the Massachusetts Nurse Practice Act by removing antiquated and unnecessarily restrictive licensing requirements. Despite leading the nation’s healthcare reform initiatives, Massachusetts has among the most restrictive and antiquated licensing requirements and is the only New England state that has yet to remove them.

Nurse practitioners are registered nurses with advanced Master’s or doctoral level education and nationally certified in advanced practice nursing specialties. They provide comprehensive health care services including performing physical examinations, prescribing medications, ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests, and treating and managing acute, episodic, and chronic conditions.  Nurse practitioners work closely with physicians and other members of the healthcare team and like physicians, consult with specialists when needed.

Although MA nurse practitioners have legal authority to prescribe medications, current MA regulations require a supervising physician to oversee their prescribing practices. This requirement would be removed if H. 2351/S. 1257 passes.

Nurse Practitioners are well recognized for delivering high quality, cost effective healthcare. Passage of H.2451/S. 1257 would align the Massachusetts Nurse Practice Act with 22 states plus D.C, where Full Practice Authority legislation for Nurse Practitioners has already been advanced.  Such a change here in Massachusetts would ensure greater consistency in practice and better care for patients.

Increased reliance on nurse practitioners can be a more cost-effective approach to healthcare.  As the cost of care continues to rise – for both the Commonwealth and patients – shifting to a Full Practice Authority model would better position the state and employers to leverage the workforce of Nurse Practitioners to identify cost-savings.  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.

At 109 days, a recent Merritt Hawkins study reports that Boston has the longest wait times in the country for those patients seeking new appointments with a family medicine provider. Massachusetts boasts the greatest number of physicians per capita and spends the most dollars on care.  By positioning Nurse Practitioners to work to the full extent of their education and training, passage of H. 2351/S. 1257 will create cost effective access to care for the residents of the Commonwealth.

About Massachusetts Coalition of Nurse Practitioners

The Massachusetts Coalition of Nurse Practitioners (MCNP) represents the professional voice of the Commonwealth’s nearly 9,000 nurse practitioners.  Advancing a patient centered agenda, MCNP seeks to create recognition for the key role that NPs can play to improve and ensure access to high quality and cost-effective care for all.