The United States may spend more money on health care per year than any other country, but our results still leave much to be desired.
In fact, the US healthcare system often struggles to consistently ensure high quality care is delivered to patients. Making matters worse, we are on the verge of a shortage of primary care providers. Demand for these services, typically provided by physicians, is soon expected to outpace its supply, increasing costs and reducing access for patients. Rural and urban populations on Medicaid already face limited access to high quality health care.
As concerns about the weaknesses of our current health care system continue to grow louder in the public discourse, some have begun to support “Medicare for All” as a solution to ensure all Americans have access to health care. While this is a laudable goal that I share, the method of achieving it, “Medicare for All,” suffers from numerous shortcomings.
Instead, one reform that’s not only financially feasible but can also help ensures access while providing quality care is simply using a resource we already have more fully: Nurse Practitioners (NPs).
The number of NPs has been growing and will likely continue to grow. In fact, the total NP workforce is projected to nearly double from 2013 through 2025. This growth is essential as baby Boomers continue to age and increase demand for health care. If we used NPs to their full ability, we could meet patients’ health care needs while increasing access.
In some places, NPs are already being used by primary care practices to deliver care to patients. Unsurprisingly, there is growing evidence that NPs provide high quality care for their patients. In order to be able to practice, NPs are required to undergo extensive training, with most earning a Master’s degree. While they are highly trained, they do not face the same expensive educational requirements as physicians. This allows NPs to more easily afford to work in rural areas or for urban Medicaid patients. This dynamic allows NPs to increase access for the most underserved populations. Whether you support “Medicare for All” or a pure free market in health care, this is an outcome you should like.