Antiquated Prescription Laws Must Change
It is estimated that every day hundreds of uninsured and Medicaid/Medicare patients must go to emergency rooms to get medications for cancer pain, anxiety, attention deficit disorder medication refills, cough medication with codeine, diarrhea medication, hormone replacement and pain medicine.
Why? Because these patients are cared for by advanced registered nurse practitioners, who are prohibited by an outdated state law from prescribing these medications.
If, however Florida joined 48 other states in our nation and allowed advanced registered nurse practitioners to prescribe these medications, patients could get these same medications in the less costly clinic setting and save untold dollars for the state budget and reduce indigent care cost to hospitals.
Currently, Senate Bill 188 and House Bill 677, which are sitting in the committees on Health Regulation, would lift this barrier for Floridians who need to receive that care, especially Floridians who live in rural underserved areas of our state.
This legislation would bring Florida up to national standards and join the 48 states that allow advanced practice nurses to prescribe controlled substances.
In 2008, the Florida Senate conducted a study on this issue and concluded that, like 48 other states, Florida should change this outdated law and grant the authority to prescribe controlled substances to ARNPs. But, because of medical politics, the Senate Committee on Health Regulation refuses to heed its own advice, so Florida's citizens continue to be harmed and suffer needlessly and the state, in the midst of a financial crisis, continues to pay for unnecessary emergency room visits.
As the Senate interim report points out, many rural areas do not have adequate numbers of physician providers. People living in these areas must drive long hours to reach a physician to get certain types of care that could be provided and prescribed by the ARNPs who already live and work there, if legislative barriers were removed.
The cost of providing this health care in emergency rooms to the uninsured and undeserved population is ultimately borne by all Floridians through higher health insurance premiums and higher taxes, and patients who get sicker, lose time at work and even wind up in the ICU.
The 48 states that allow ARNPs to provide these services are realizing tremendous savings and increased access to care for their citizens. It is time for the Florida Legislature to bring health care in this state up to national standards, increase access without increasing costs, and stop playing politics with people's health.