Expect flurry of legislative, provider activity on heels of new Calif. bills

Three bills that were introduced in California would recognize pharmacists as healthcare providers and would enable pharmacists, nurse practitioners and optometrists to practice to the full extent of their education and training.

The reality is that industry observers can expect to see more states considering similar measures as they all prepare a roadmap to lower costs by allowing pharmacists and NPs to practice at the top of their professions.

In fact, as previously reported by Drug Store News, lawmakers and other officials are taking notice and according to survey findings, so are HMOs. For example, the survey found that 75% of HMOs credential nurse practitioners as primary care providers, an increase over previous years. As the survey stated, there needs to be 100% credentialing in order “for the healthcare system to be ready for the huge influx of new patients in 2014. ... All nurse practitioners must be able to practice to, and be compensated for, the full scope of their ability.”

The reason why this is critical is quite clear. First of all, there’s healthcare reform that will put roughly 30 million uninsured Americans into the coverage rolls come 2014, and then there’s the physician shortage in this country. It is estimated that the primary care physician shortage will reach about 60,000 by 2015.

According to numbers provided by the Convenient Care Association, as few as 2% of medical students coming out of U.S. medical schools intend to pursue a career in general primary care. Also, between 30% and 60% of patients of convenient care clinics — which are typically staffed by nurse practitioners — reported not having a primary care physician. Plus, as many as 40% of convenient care clinic patients said they would have sought costlier care or would have foregone care completely if there had not been a convenient care clinic available.

One can also expect a flurry of provider activity as private equity firms continue to invest against healthcare solutions and more new players piloting new alternatives hit the radar screen.

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