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Building a healthy business climate

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, December 26, 2017
Updated: Thursday, December 14, 2017

Quality health care access is vital to creating and maintaining a healthy economy, according to researchers in neighboring Kansas.

That should be common sense. Who would build or relocate a business where their employees have little or no access to health care? Common sense was borne out in a study that is part of a statewide initiative called the Kansas Rural Health Works program sponsored by the Kansas Hospital Association.

We know that full practice authority for nurse practitioners will increase access to health care, and that means an improvement in the health and wellbeing of residents. But it turns out that health care access is also a vital economic statistic.

Dr. John Leatherman, agricultural economist at Kansas State University’s Office of Local Government and lead author of the report, noted that health care access and education are two of the most important factors in attracting and retaining business and industry.

“Research has shown time and again that local health care and education are two enormously important factors for economic development,” Leatherman said, “and both can be positively or negatively influenced by local action or inaction.” He said the local health care system has sometimes been the “tie-breaker” in industry location decisions and that retirees view quality local health care as a “must have” local service.

Kansas isn’t the first of Oklahoma’s neighbors to argue that quality health care is a good prescription for economic development. Last year, Ben Hammond, president and CEO of the Texas Association of Business, penned an opinion piece in support of full practice authority for the San Antonio Express-News.

The reality is our state does not have enough health care providers to meet our population’s needs. Texas ranks 47th among the 50 states in primary care access. And while Texas is busy worrying about whether APRNs should have to pay doctors to practice, other states like New Mexico are happily recruiting our Texas-trained APRNs to come to them. Why wouldn’t an APRN go to a different state where their competitors aren’t allowed to deny them the right to practice?

That sounds strikingly similar to Oklahoma, except we rank 49th in physician-to-patient ratio. We all know the need, and studies have shown that nurse practitioners are more likely to set up shop in rural areas.

HB 1013, by Rep. Josh Cockroft and Sen. AJ Griffin, would allow nurse practitioners to put their full education and training to use caring for Oklahomans. That bill passed the Oklahoma House with an overwhelming, bipartisan vote before stalling in a Senate committee. The measure isn’t dead, though, and can move forward once the legislature reconvenes in February.

In addition to researchers in neighboring states, a number of free-market think tanks have pointed to the advantages of full practice authority. Current regulations, in many states, include burdensome red tape that does nothing to improve patient safety or outcomes. Jettisoning outdated regulations would improve health of both the citizens and the business environment. It’s a move that Oklahoma should make sooner rather than later.

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