Health care providers around Florida are continuing a push for laws that would expand the roles of nurse practitioners and physicians assistants.
Florida policy leaders, educators and health care providers gathered for a symposium hosted by Gunster law firm at the University of South Florida's Center of Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation in Tampa on Tuesday to discuss expanding access to health care.
A key topic introduced by panelists at the symposium was a twice-failed bill that would allow certain medical professionals to operate more like doctors, including the power to prescribe medications and operate independently.
State Sen. Joe Negron, R-Palm City, said it's likely to be a hot button topic during the legislature's regular session.
"I think there will be scope of practice issues, not only with nurse practitioners, but also with physician's assistants and whether or not they should be permitted to prescribe controlled substances,” Negron said.
Barbara Sharief, an advanced registered nurse practitioner in Broward County and president of nursing for South Florida Pediatric Homecare Inc., said patients wait months to see a doctor when nurses like herself have the training to perform more functions than they're allowed by law.
"We have a limited amount of physicians here in the state of Florida,” Sharief said. “The limited scope of practice for ARNPs (advanced registered nurse practitioners) and PAs (physician’s assistants) lend us to keeping with this shortage."
Lawmakers meet for regular session in January.
Negron said lawmakers are likely to continue discussing other health care topics like telemedicine and insurance payments, another hot topic at the symposium.
Justin Senior, Florida's deputy secretary for Medicaid, told industry leaders that as the payment model for hospitals and physicians changes, telemedicine will become a regular part of treatment.
“Telemedicine is very difficult in a fee-for-service system because it can create a lot of visits, generate a lot of visits very fast in an old payment model and it can become very expensive,” Senior said.
But changes under the Affordable Care Act mean the health care industry is moving away from charging fees for every exam, test and screening. Hospitals and physicians will eventually make more money for keeping patients healthy, instead of for every test.
As a result, Senior said, telemedicine and other medical technologies will rise in popularity.
Daylina Miller is a reporter with WUSF in Tampa. WUSF is a partner with Health News Florida, which receives support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.