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FMA, TaxWatch spar over nurse practitioner report


A recent report from Florida TaxWatch backs proposals before the Legislature to allow highly trained nurses to practice independently from doctors and prescribe controlled substances.  House Bill 7071 and SB 1352, are waiting committee hearings but have the backing of the conservative House leadership, who have focused on health care workforce issues as a counterpoint to opposing Medicaid expansion.

TaxWatch's "Diagnosing the Debate" report -- found here -- says the state could save $44 million in Medicaid spending and up to $339 million in total by allowing nurse practitioners and physician assistants to practice with fewer restrictions. Highly trained nurses could meet as much as 80 percent of the state's primary care needs, the report said.

The Florida Medical Association, a powerful lobby group representing doctors, opposes proposals to grant nurse practitioners more independence. It released a strongly worded statement today pointing out what it says are "five serious flaws" in the report and calling on TaxWatch to correct the record. The association accused TaxWatch of using outdated data and faulty assumptions in arriving at its conclusions. 

"This report, which is based largely on a government memorandum that is now four years old, is so fundamentally flawed and misleading, it requires immediate correction," said Jeff Scott, FMA's general counsel in a news release. "The report is based on numerous assumptions that are demonstrably and irrefutably false."

This afternoon, TaxWatch said it stands by the report and dismissed the FMA as "special interest group" intent on protecting its turf by lobbying for the continued restrictions on highly trained nurses.

It addressed some of the association's claims while repeating the assertion that expanding scope of practice for highly skilled health care workers is the right thing to do.

"Now, more than ever, it is crucial to expand access to care for Floridians," said Robert E. Weissert, TaxWatch's chief research officer and general counsel. "Allowing our state's (advanced registered nurse practitioners) and (physician assistants), who are qualified medical professionals, to practice with fewer restrictions would expand access opportunities to our state's residents and provide significant savings for Florida and its hard-working taxpayers."