Virginia patients face major changes and challenges today and in the coming years. Thankfully, nurse practitioners are ready, willing, able – and nationally certified – to expand access to health care statewide.

The passage of Virginia HB 793 has established the opportunity for NPs with the equivalent of five or more years (that is, 9,000 hours) of clinical experience to apply for autonomous practice – that is, practice that does not necessitate a collaborating agreement with a physician. In light of this exciting development, we want to ensure that all NPs can be reimbursed directly, removing any barriers that would prevent them from being properly compensated for the services they provide. A simple code change will help ensure that health plans recognize NPs as mandated providers and reimburse them appropriately.

Here’s why it’s important to support nurse practitioners throughout Virginia:

Patients come first. Nurse practitioners provide high-quality care to every patient. Over the past 40 years, every major study on NP care – over 100 – have shown that nurse practitioners’ patient health outcomes meet or exceed the results from other providers. This is because NPs choose a population focus earlier in their education. Their philosophy guides NPs to take a holistic approach. They look at and listen to the entire patient.

People of Virginia need more primary care. The shortage of primary care providers already impacts Virginia residents – in both underserved rural and urban areas. More than 80% of all NPs are certified to provide primary care. We must act quickly to ensure the people of Virginia can depend on access to quality health care in the years to come.

Nurse practitioners serve rural communities. Nurse practitioners are twice as likely as physicians to serve in rural communities, and NPs in states with lower barriers to practice are more likely to practice in rural areas compared to states without it.

It saves money. Outdated regulations put red tape between nurse practitioners and patients.  Free market advocates support lower barriers to practice for nurse practitioners, as increased competition in health care is good for both patients and consumers. Unlike other proposals to expand access to care, this will not cost taxpayers a dime.

Experience and experts agree. 22 states and Washington, D.C. have already adopted full practice authority. The Institute of Medicine, AARP, the National Governor’s Association, the Federal Trade Commission, and the National Conference of State Legislatures have all endorsed the policy. HB 793 helps lower barriers to practice and is an important step towards Full Practice Authority.

Patient-centered care will remain strong. Patients are most healthy when they can access the health care system easily and affordably. Nurse practitioners are trained to work as part of a health care team. Just as physicians need no mandate to refer patients to a specialist, NPs work with other health care professionals any time it benefits the health of a patient.