Nurse practitioner scope bill dies in committee

August 30, 2013
Area(s) of Interest: Scope of Practice 

Today, a bill that would have given nurse practitioners more autonomy to practice on their own without physician supervision, died in the Assembly Appropriations Committee. The California Medical Association (CMA) mounted an all-out attack to stop the bill from reaching the full Assembly for a vote.

The bill (SB 491) would have allowed nurse practitioners to open practices without any oversight from a trained medical doctor and prescribe potentially dangerous, addictive drugs without supervision.

CMA strongly believes that simply expanding the scope of practice of allied health practitioners to give them independent and/or expanded practice will do nothing to improve access to care or quality of care in our state. Allowing practitioners to perform procedures they simply aren’t trained to do can only lead to unpredictable outcomes, higher costs and greater fragmentation of care.

CMA believes that quality and safety of medical care must remain paramount for our patients. A fully trained nurse practitioner has roughly 700 hours of clinical experience. Pediatricians and internists by comparison have over 20,000 hours. This stark difference means nurse practitioners order more lab tests, x-rays, unnecessary procedures and specialty referrals than physicians generally do. The result? Higher costs and greater inconvenience for patients. More important, it can delay diagnosis of life threatening diseases – as when a child’s bone tumor is mistaken for a bruise, or a brain cancer for a migraine – which can have serious consequences for patients as well as for the entire care system.

“The 37,000 members of CMA and dozens of groups aligned in the Coalition for Patient Access and Quality Care applaud the members of Assembly Appropriations Committee for understanding the harm that SB 491 would have caused patients," says CMA President Paul R. Phinney, M.D. “CMA and our partners understand that California faces a physician shortage, but SB 491 would not have solved that problem."

CMA is committed to addressing issues of access and to that end, recently helped to secure funding for the new UC Riverside Medical School, which opened this month, putting more highly trained physicians in underserved areas that need them the most. Other CMA supported legislation will expedite licenses for physicians willing to practice in rural and underserved areas (AB 1288) and will expand the eligibility for the successful Steve Thompson Loan Repayment Program (AB 565), which provides grants of up to $105,000 to physicians who agree to practice for three years in underserved areas of the state.

Contact: Juan Thomas, (916) 551-2546 or jthomas@cmadocs.org.


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