The Florida Legislature passed a bill on Wednesday that would provide Floridians greater access to healthcare, particularly in rural and underserved communities.
The bill (HB 607), sponsored by State Representative Cary Pigman, who is also a trained emergency medicine physician, would remove unnecessary barriers, expanding the roles of registered nurse practitioners and physician assistants to be able to practice medicine to a greater extent without supervision.
The measure, which passed after it was amended by the Senate on Tuesday, allows Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) more autonomy to deliver health care for patients during a time where the state is facing problems meeting the demand for health care providers due to an influx in population.
The amended bill, however, was watered-down from its original version, with Senate lawmakers reluctant to fully increase the autonomy for nurses.
Expanding the scope of practice has been a top priority for House Speaker Jose Oliva, who has devoted much of his tenure instituting responsible health care reform and making it more affordable for Floridians. Coming into his final legislative session, Oliva sought to allow nurses to practice freely without any regulation.
While the dialed-back version of Oliva’s magnum opus does increase the capacity to practice, it comes with a caveat: requiring APRNs to take at least 3,000 clinical practice hours in the five years before practicing autonomously, which deviated from what the speaker wanted.
Still, today’s passage drew praise from pro-business leaders around the state. The Florida Chamber, a business advocacy group responsible for protecting Florida’s Constitution from special interest groups, applauded the bill reaching the finish line.
“With 900 new residents moving to Florida each day, and 4.5 million more residents expected to call Florida home by 2030, it’s vital that Floridians have increased access to safe, quality healthcare,” said David Hart, Executive Vice President, Florida Chamber of Commerce
The proposal was an uphill battle for Republicans looking to lower health care costs and allow practitioners to alleviate the state’s crippling demand for practitioners. While many in the field saw the bill as a way to increase the supply of competent health care providers, many doctors and physician groups were extremely vocal in their opposition.
The bill will now head to Governor Ron DeSantis for approval.