On February 9, the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) hosted a panel on Advanced Practice Providers and Access to Care at their 16th Annual Policy Orientation, one of the premier policy conferences in Texas for media, legislators, and legislative staff. During the panel, Blake Hutson of AARP-Texas, Dr. Deane Waldman of TPPF, and Anne Dunkelberg of the Center for Public Policy Priorities (CPPP) talked about the growing needs of Texas' medically undeserved populations and made an eloquent case for why the state should untie the hands of advanced practice nurses (APRNs), like nurse practitioners, so they can better serve Texas patients.
According to statistics Hutson presented:
Only 2% of medical students are entering an internal medicine/family care specialty;
78% of practicing physicians report they are over capacity with their current patient load; and
35% of Texas physicians do not accept Medicaid.
"This is where Texas APRNs come in," Hutson explained "We have an APRN in all 254 Texas counties, and 73 percent of nurse practitioners are licensed to work in an area of primary care. APRNs are ready to fill this gap."
Dunkelberg, a state expert on Texas Medicaid, addressed how expanding the role of APRNs could particularly alleviate some of the need among Texas Medicaid patients, many of whom struggle to access primary care.
"I don't see many inexpensive solutions to solving some of our access issues with Medicaid in Texas'" said Dunkelberg. "APRNs are one of those solutions."
Representative Stephanie Klick, who authored House Bill 1415 last session to remove barriers to APRNs, highlighted the startling brain drain effect of restrictive Texas laws and how Texas trained and educated APRNs are choosing to move to neighboring states with better laws for APRNs.
"When I visited with New Mexico Governor Martinez, her office actually bragged about poaching nurse practitioners who wanted to leave Texas for a better practice environment," Klick shared. "We simply cannot afford to lose this precious resource to other states."