SACRAMENTO, Calif., April 30, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- With more than 3.3 million more Californians now covered by the Affordable Health Care Act and Medi-Cal, granting full practice authority to nurse practitioners is "one of the most effective steps" California can take to increase the supply of primary care providers while maintaining high quality health care and driving down costs, according to a report http://www.bayareaeconomy.org/ released today by the Bay Area Council.
The report, funded by AARP and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, finds that $1.8 billion in health care cost savings could be achieved over the next 10 years, the number of nurse practitioners could increase by 24 percent, and patients in rural and underserved communities would be the major beneficiaries if California nurse practitioners were given the same practicing authorities as those in 17 other states and the District of Columbia.
"It's clear from this report that allowing nurse practitioners to practice the health care they've been trained for is a key to making the Affordable Health Care Act work effectively in California," says president of the California Association for Nurse Practitioners, Beth Haney. "It's time the Legislature realize the cost savings, increase in access, and improvement in quality that will come from changing the law to remove the barriers to practice for nurse practitioners in California."
The study found the number of NPs in California has seen a dramatic rise in the past decade, more than doubling from 8,240 in 2004 to over 17,000 in 2008. Nurse practitioners now represent almost 6 percent of all nurses in the state, up from 2 percent in 1993.
Along with accounting for a rising share of primary care providers, NPs also serve a more diverse and historically underserved population, the report notes. Nurse practitioners are also more likely than physicians to care for younger, female and non-white patients. They are also much more likely to serve individuals with disabilities and those dually eligible for Medicare and Medi-Cal.
The report also found that counties in which NPs practiced were more likely to be either rural or a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA), critical targets for increasing access.
The Bay Area Council's analysis shows that over 4,000 additional NPs would be practicing in California today had practice restrictions been lifted in the state previously, representing a 24 percent increase in the number of NPs practicing throughout the state.
SOURCE California Association For Nurse Practitioners