Leading Nurses Union Wants to Make Equal Pay for Nurse Practitioners Permanent
The Oregon Nurses Association is supporting legislation to lift the sunset on a 2013 payment parity law that requires health insurers to pay primary care providers, including doctors, nurse practitioners and physician assistants the same rate for the services rendered irrespective of the license of the provider.
“The policy is working well and meeting the objectives that we thought it would when we passed it,” ONA lobbyist Jenn Baker told The Lund Report. “It’s a move to ensure that there’s a payment for each individual service, and we’re not discriminating by provider type.”
The law was first passed after some insurers, such as Regence BlueCross BlueShield, drastically and arbitrarily cut rates for some nurse practitioners and physician assistants who were operating independently, while preserving rates for physicians performing the same services and even nurse practitioners who worked in larger clinics and therefore had more leverage over payments.
The actions by the insurers threatened access in several rural communities, where nurse practitioners are often the only primary care providers willing to work with lower volumes and profit margins.
Like before, their bill faces opposition from the Oregon Medical Association and other statewide physician organizations, who argue the policy does not take into effect the higher costs that doctors incur for insurance and education.
OMA lobbyist Courtni Dresser told The Lund Report that her organization still hoped to find a better payment reform plan than simply paying primary care doctors and independent nurse practitioners the same rates. New legislation from 2015 -- Senate Bill 231 -- authorized the Health Policy Board to convene competing providers and insurance companies to negotiate a new payment scheme that compensates quality over quantity, but work from that bill so far has made little progress.
“There’s no reason to lift the sunset when we have another year to continue the discussion,” Dresser said.
ONA lobbyist Jack Dempsey countered that the law has worked well without hurting physician practices. His organization is eager to protect nurse practitioners now -- while they have solid support in the Democratic legislature.
Sen. Laurie Monnes Anderson, D-Gresham, a retired nurse, supports such legislation in the February, while Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, D-Beaverton, a family practice physician, also indicated she’d support the bill on the Senate floor.
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