by Brenée Goforth
Communications Associate, John Locke Foundation
On Friday, Carolina Journal’s Julie Havlak reported on the current regulations facing nurse practitioners in North Carolina. Havlak explains:
As a nurse practitioner in North Carolina, [Stephenie] Brinson must have a supervising physician whose scope of practice encompasses her duties. If she loses the supervising physician, she has 30 days to find a new one, or she must shutter her business and lose everything.
…Legally, she must meet with her supervising physician twice a year, or once a month for the first six months she works with him or her. For each nurse practitioner she employs, she pays her supervising physician $500 per month.
Nurse practitioner groups say physician supervision is a parasitic regulation, and they resent it for leeching away their earnings without boosting patient health.
According to Havlak, North Carolina’s law is in the minority:
Nurse practitioners can practice without physician supervision in 22 states, the District of Columbia, and in federal government facilities. But North Carolina numbers among the 12 most-restrictive states for nurse practitioners, who say physician supervision often amounts to more bills they have to pay.
Despite the federal government’s rejection of the approach, North Carolina continues to impose these regulations on nurse practitioners. Havlak explains:
The Federal Trade Commission declared the regulation anti-competitive in a 2014 report.
“They effectively give one group of health care professionals the ability to restrict access to the market by another, competing group of health care professionals, thereby denying health care consumers the benefits of greater competition,” the report said.
The feds recommended eradicating this oversight regulation — with one exception. In the case of “well-founded patient safety concerns,” they say the physician supervision requirement should stick.
Physicians groups have used this language to keep North Carolina’s law in place, Havlak writes, but nurses have pushed for reform:
“We’re not asking for anything additional,” North Carolina Nurses Association President Elaine Scherer said. “The preparation of a nurse practitioner is way different than it used to be, but we have the same laws governing us as we did 40 years ago. Times have changed, but the laws have not.”