Bill offering better rural health care headed to governor

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LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan House of Representatives on Thursday gave final approval to legislation to define the scope of practice for specially trained nurses.

Under House Bill 5400, due to increased freedom and independence for health care providers, people in rural areas such as Branch and Hillsdale counties and parts of Jackson County would have better access to health care at a lower cost.

The bill would allow “advanced practice registered nurses” (APRNs) to continue to play an important role in the state’s health care system by giving them greater ability to provide the best type of patient care, particularly in rural areas where patients often have limited options when choosing providers.

APRNs may be nurse midwives, nurse practitioners, or clinical nurse specialists.

The measure is similar to Senate Bill 68, sponsored by Sen. Mike Shirkey.

“We would prefer to see a bill recognizing more freedom and independence for APRNs, but this is a good start,” said Shirkey, R-Clarklake. “This bill will increase access to medical care, decrease cost of primary care, and will do both in especially beneficial ways for rural areas.”

HB 5400 would create a way of incentivizing APRNs to serve in regions with unusually low access to health care, typically rural areas, by allocating part of the APRN licensing fee to the Nurse Professional Fund. The fund would be tasked with encouraging nurses to work in Health Resource Shortage Areas when needed.

“This legislation is a step in the right direction for APRNs in Michigan,” said Certified Nurse Midwife Katie Lavery, MS, of Everyday Blessings Midwifery. “Nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, and clinical nurse specialists are essential in the process of decreasing health care costs, in increasing access and in the delivery of quality health care. These policies are consistent with a movement towards common standards of practice for APRNs nationwide.”

Under the legislation, an APRN would be able to make calls or go on rounds in private homes, public institutions, emergency vehicles, ambulatory care clinics, hospitals, intermediate or extended care facilities, health maintenance organizations, nursing homes, or other health care facilities. All of these changes could positively impact rural areas like the 16th Senate District.

The measure was crafted with input and suggestions from nurses, physicians, and other interested stakeholders.

Both the Senate and House of Representatives have approved HB 5400. It now heads to the governor to be signed into law.