How healthcare reform affects nurses

by Kevin Fickenscher, MD

I recently wrote a piece in the Washington Report, a weekly newsletter, on What Healthcare Reform Means for Your Doctor.

The passage of healthcare reform means our country’s physicians should expect to see some interesting long-term changes to their Medicare and Medicaid payments in addition to administrative simplification and medical liability pilot programs. But this made me think, what about the nurses?

Constituting the largest healthcare occupation group with more than 2.5 million providers across the country, nurses are a critical part of our healthcare delivery system. Working with physicians and helping patients receive the highest quality care possible, the impact of nurses must not be overlooked when discussing how healthcare reform will change the medical community. Several important changes were included in Congress’ reform package that will directly impact the nursing workforce, such as:

* Increased funding for graduate education for nurses.
* Increased funding for education for nurses who plan to work in underserved areas.
* Increased Medicare reimbursement rates for advanced practice nurses.
* Creation of a midwife pilot program that will deliver Medicare reimbursements for nurse practitioners who have created or led “medical homes.”
* Increased reimbursements for school-based clinics under Medicaid.

An often overlooked resource in our care management system, nurses play a critical role in helping patients, and Congress’ healthcare reform bill recognizes their importance.

I believe part of the solution to our delivery problem will be through an expansion of nurses’ roles in healthcare as we move into the future. While it seems that healthcare reform might be completed, the work has only begun. Further discussion on the enhanced role of nursing is just around the corner, from my perspective.

Kevin Fickenscher is the Vice President of Strategic Initiatives for Dell Services Healthcare. Dr. Fickenscher writes the Washington Report, a weekly newsletter on health care reform and technology. He can be reached on Twitter @MDKev.

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