Protect Your Practice: Healthcare Bill will have Profound Impact on Nursing, Nurses, Patient Care

  

To many nurses around the country, the talk about healthcare reform in the nation’s capital is just that: a whole lot of talk. But if the current healthcare bill being considered by the Senate passes, are you ready for how it will impact your practice and the nursing profession as a whole?

Take hospital funding, for example. Love it or hate it, it’s a fact that “Obamacare” (or the  Affordable Care Act, “ACA”) drastically reduced the amount of money hospitals spend annually on uncompensated, or “charitable,” care.

In one state alone, Minnesota, hospitals have seen their uncompensated care costs decline by 17% since the implementation of the ACA, saving hospitals in the state about $53 million annually.

Such numbers are far from uncommon, and are probably similar where you live. The reason is simple: when more people have insurance, more people are able to pay their hospital bills. Unfortunately, the healthcare changes being considered by the Senate would leave 49 million people across the US without health insurance, once again increasing the need for hospitals to provide enormous (and enormously expensive) amounts of charitable and otherwise uncompensated care.

These increased costs will need to be accounted for in hospital budgets and will likely impact nurse staffing and care delivery—a critical issue which ANA recently addressed in a widely co-signed letter to the Center for Medicare Services.

But the healthcare bill will also impact nurses outside of the hospital setting. According to a recent survey of school administrators, over seventy percent of school districts turn to Medicaid to pay for the health professionals and school nurses needed to care for special education students. Since the senate healthcare bill would cut Medicaid spending by almost $800 billion and impose a cap on the amount of Medicaid-funded services any child could receive, school nurses and administrators are staunchly opposed to the bill.

Even if you don’t work in a hospital setting, and even if you don’t have children in school, it’s likely you will still be impacted by the healthcare bill being considered by the Senate. For example, we all have a vested interest in the health of our nation’s veterans. But of concern to veterans, VA nurses, and Veterans groups, 1.75 million vets stand to lose their Medicaid coverage under the healthcare bill, which in turn would impact the VA as more veterans seek care in that already overloaded and underfunded system.

Since Medicaid pays for most of the 1.4 million Americans in nursing homes, elderly Americans and nursing home nurses are also gravely concerned by the impact of the healthcare bill. The same goes for rural nurses and citizens, whose safety-net hospitals are projected to lose eighty-three percent of their net income by 2026 under the new bill.

The list goes on: whether or not you realize it, this healthcare bill will impact you and your practice, perhaps in ways that are unforeseen or unintended. That’s why the American Nurses Association is calling for a more thorough, nuanced, and bipartisan process for healthcare reform.

We urge the Senate to step back and approach this herculean task in a way that works for all Americans. For the sake of nurses and their patients, we can’t afford to get this one wrong.

National Nurses Week Recognized on Capitol Hill

  

nurses-week-banner

In honor of National Nurses Week, ANA has worked with Congress to celebrate nurses for their expertise, compassion, and vital role they play in our nation’s healthcare system.

On May 4th, Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), the first registered nurse elected to Congress, introduced House Resolution 315. This resolution states that the U.S. House of Representatives supports the goals and ideals of National Nurses Week as founded by the American Nurses Association. It notes that as nurse staffing levels increase, the risk of patient complications and length of hospital stays decrease, resulting in cost savings. Further, it acknowledges that nurses consistently deliver high-quality care with positive patient outcomes when they are allowed to work to the full extent of their education and training.

Rep. Johnson called her resolution a small token of gratitude and recognition for all the hard work nurses perform. “As a non-practicing registered nurse and member of the Congressional Nursing Caucus, I am acutely aware of how valuable nurses are to the medical system, patients, and our society,” said Johnson. “Whether in hospitals, nursing homes, community clinics, or any other setting, nurses are integral to patient care. Nurses are our greatest resource in eliminating health disparities and alleviating chronic disease as they exemplify and lead prevention and public health efforts.”

The Co-Chairs of the Senate Nursing Caucus, Sens. Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), introduced an identical resolution officially honoring May 6-12 as National Nurses Week. Their resolution recognizes nurses as strong allies to Congress, experienced researchers, and the cornerstone of the public health infrastructure.

On May 11th, a bipartisan group of Senators introduced S. 1109, the Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act. Led by Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Richard Burr (R-NC), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Susan Collins (R-ME), this legislation would reauthorize, update and improve programs that help to grow and support the nursing workforce in the United States.

“As the husband of a nurse, I hear firsthand about the challenges and successes that come with working on the frontlines of our health care system,” said Merkley. “Every day, nurses take on difficult, essential, and often thankless tasks that keep our health care system running and that have a huge impact on the patient experience. Each of us has a story about the nurse who made all the difference at a frightening or difficult time for our families. I’ll keep fighting to improve federal policy to fully recognize and support the essential role of nurses in our health care system, and I invite all Oregonians to join me in recognizing the tremendous work of our Oregon nurses this National Nurses Week.”

Additionally, ANA co-sponsored two Hill briefings with the Nursing Community in collaboration with the House and Senate Nursing Caucuses. The series was entitled “Transforming Health and Health Care: Nursing Workforce and Research.” The first briefing featured nursing experts who made a clear case to Congress for funding nursing education by highlighting ways the nursing profession is meeting healthcare needs of the nation. The second briefing focused on the contributions of nursing science as it relates to care across the continuum, including data science and precision health. The speakers discussed nurses’ leading role in research innovations and how nurse science has helped improve patient outcomes.

As we bring Nurses Week to a close, The Hill published an op-ed by President Pamela F. Cipriano, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, urging Congress to cut through the red tape to help Medicare beneficiaries get the care they need by passing S.444/HR 1825, the Home Health Care Planning Improvement Act. This legislation would authorize nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, and certified nurse midwives as eligible healthcare professionals who can certify patient eligibility for home health care services under Medicare.

Happy Nurses Week and thank you for the meaningful work you do every single day!!

 

 

Legislation to Permit Home Health Certification by APRNs Re-Introduced in the Senate

  

Yesterday, Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) re-introduced S. 445, the Home Health Care Planning Improvement Act . This legislation would allow nurse practitioners (NPs), clinical nurse specialists (CNSs) and certified nurse midwives (CNMs) to certify their patient’s eligibility for home health care services. ANA strongly supports S. 445.

Current Medicare policy prevents these advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) from providing appropriate care for their patients. Medicare has recognized the autonomous practice of these APRNs for nearly two decades, as they provide the majority of skilled care for home health patients. While these health care professionals are authorized to perform face-to-face assessments of a patient’s needs, a physician must certify their assessment. This legislation appropriately removes that burdensome requirement and ensures more timely access to home health services under Medicare.

While the date has not yet been set, ANA is working with House champions to introduce companion legislation. Last Congress, this legislation garnered 52 cosponsors in the Senate and 206 in the House. We will continue to advocate for passage of this important legislation and urge you to help advance this bill by contacting your Members of Congress.