Organized Medicine Is Putting Profit Ahead of Patients, and It's Making America Sick

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AUSTIN, TEXAS — Today, President Sophia L. Thomas, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC, PPCNP-BC, FNAP, FAANP, and Chief Executive Officer David Hebert, JD, of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners® (AANP) issued the following statement regarding organized medicine’s shameful attacks on high-quality nurse practitioner (NP) care amidst the COVID-19 pandemic:

“As our nation faces the most significant health crisis in the last 100 years, it is disappointing that organized medicine is focusing its attention, not on expanding access to health care for patients, but on attacking our country’s more than 290,000 NPs as they work to ensure continued access to care for all patients — including those suffering from COVID-19 and health care disparities — in primary, acute and specialty care settings,” said David Hebert, JD, Chief Executive Officer of AANP. “These assaults, ranging from deceit-filled press conferences to Twitter rants and error-ridden op-eds and articles, are a distraction from the health care access crisis harming patients. Health policy experts agree that it is unrealistic to rely on the physician workforce to provide all the primary care America needs and that NPs are the solution to the crisis we face. By 2026, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the NP role will have grown by 36%, compared to 13% for physicians. Yet, despite the fact that nearly 80 million Americans reside in primary care health professional shortage areas and lack sufficient access to primary care, the physician lobby is doubling down on its commitment to prevent patients from accessing NP-provided care — all at a high cost to the health of our nation.”

“It is unfortunate that during an unprecedented global pandemic, when millions of patients still lack access to care, physician groups have chosen to attack well-qualified NPs,” said AANP President Sophia L. Thomas, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC, PPCNP-BC, FNAP, FAANP. “The positions taken by organized medicine are physician-centered, not patient-focused. Patients need access to quality health care, and they deserve to choose who they see for their provider. NPs have a more than 50-year track record of outstanding patient care, and patients are rightly choosing NPs in more than one billion patient visits each year. Not only are NPs’ health care outcomes equivalent to that of their physician counterparts, study after study shows that patients receiving NP-provided care have fewer emergency room visits, shorter hospital stays and lower hospital readmission rates than patients who receive care from other providers. While only 8% of physician graduates match with primary care programs, more than 80% of NPs graduate from primary care programs.”

In a 2018 study issued by the American Enterprise Institute, health policy expert Peter Buerhaus, Ph.D, noted that “NPs are significantly more likely than primary care physicians to care for vulnerable populations.” According to Buerhaus, “Nonwhites, women, American Indians, the poor and uninsured, people on Medicaid, those living in rural areas, Americans who qualify for Medicare because of a disability, and dual-eligibles are all more likely to receive primary care from NPs than from physicians.”

AANP will continue to join with policymakers and institutions at the state and federal levels to call for the removal of barriers restricting patients’ access to NP care. In 22 states, the District of Columbia and two U.S. territories, patients have full and direct access to NPs, strengthening access to primary care. The remaining states maintain barriers that limit patients’ access to care. According to a Pew Research Center survey, nearly a quarter of Americans living in rural areas said that lack of access to providers and hospitals is a “major issue” in their communities. The federal government has designated more than 7,000 health professional shortage areas, nearly 66% of them in rural states, which translates to almost 84 million Americans with inadequate access to primary care. The problem is only anticipated to worsen. By 2030, it is estimated that the nation will face shortages of more than 120,000 providers needed to meet patient demand. There is a solution to this crisis: NPs, who are shown to increase access to care in rural areas. In fact, between 2008 and 2016, the number of NPs in rural areas increased by 43.2%. It is troubling that more states have not removed practice barriers, as eight of the 10 healthiest states have eliminated these outdated regulations and allow NPs to practice to the full extent of their education and training, while the 10 least healthy states all restrict NP practice.

To navigate the health care needs of our nation successfully and ensure patients receive the quality care they deserve, all health care providers must work together cooperatively and respectfully. NPs have always prioritized the needs of patients, will continue to put patients first and remain committed to ensuring access to high-quality health care.

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The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) is the largest professional membership organization for nurse practitioners (NPs) of all specialties. It represents the interests of the more than 290,000 licensed NPs in the U.S. AANP provides legislative leadership at the local, state, and national levels, advancing health policy; promoting excellence in practice, education and research; and establishing standards that best serve NPs' patients and other health care consumers. As The Voice of the Nurse Practitioner®, AANP represents the interests of NPs as providers of high-quality, cost-effective, comprehensive, patient-centered health care. To locate an NP in your community, visit to npfinder.com. For more information about NPs, visit aanp.org. For COVID-19 information from AANP, visit aanp.org/COVID19.

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