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Louisiana lawmakers advance bill making it easier for nurse practitioners to practice without doctors

Updated: May. 24, 2021 at 2:07 PM CDT
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(Editor’s note: This story was originally published May 6, 2021 at 7:01 PM CDT - Updated May 6 at 8:10 PM on wafb.com)

BATON ROUGE, La. (Great Health Divide) - Louisiana lawmakers in the House passed a bill that would allow nurse practitioners to practice medicine independently of doctors, a move that 14 other states have already approved.

Currently, nurse practitioners in the state who have their own clinics must have a collaborative practice agreement with a physician. Essentially, the clinic hires a doctor to be on staff but in many cases, the doctor never actually has contact with the clinic.

Kourtni Atkins-Luster runs a clinic in Grosse Tete. For all intents-and-purposes, she practices independently but she still has to pay to have a doctor on staff.

“If I had a problem, I could contact my collaborator,” said Atkins-Luster.

The problem is those collaborators come with a price tag, which can sometimes be high. Atkins-Luster said they can run anywhere from $12,000 to $50,000 a year. That is money she said is better spent elsewhere.

“That [money] helps me to bring in other providers, like mental health is missing so much in this area,” she added.

House Bill 495 would do away with the collaborative agreement. It would require nurse practitioners to practice for 6,000 to 10,000 hours with a doctor and then, they could become fully independent.

Opponents are worried the quality of care would be reduced, arguing these practitioners should at least still practice under the supervision of the state’s medical board.

“What they’re doing once they’re independent, they’re practicing medicine,” said. Rep. Jeremy LaCombe (D-Livonia). “The group in this state that handles and oversees the independent practice of medicine is LSMBE (Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners). They do it for all the other groups, why should this be any different.”

The bill was passed out of the House with bipartisan support. The decision on who will govern the nurse practitioners, though, will likely be determined in the Senate.

Great Health Divide is an initiative addressing health disparities in the Mississippi Delta and Appalachia funded in part by the Google News Initiative.

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