Expanding Rural Health Care

By Rep. Mike Sanders 

A bill to allow nurse practitioners and advanced practice registered nurses to provide health care services in line with their education and training passed the House floor this week by an overwhelming majority. This will increase access to quality health care, particularly in our rural communities. This bill would free these nurses from the collaborative agreement they now sign with a physician. Many of the doctors do not see the patients or even their charts, resulting in little actual collaboration. Plus, doctors can only contract with only two nurse practitioners at a time, severely limiting the number that can practice in the state, adding to our health care shortage. These nurses are not replacing the role of the doctor. They would still have to refer patients to a doctor if necessary. Nurse practitioners, however, have many areas where they are trained. Plus, they must be nationally board certified in their area of training and are licensed and regulated by the Oklahoma Board of Nursing. They complete graduate-level education that leads to a master’s or doctoral degree.

On another subject, I want to touch on the governor’s proposal to tax 164 currently untaxed services. Some fear the Legislature is mulling these tax increases. This idea came only from the governor. Frankly, there is little to no support for these ideas among the conservative majority in the House. Before we would ever consider these kinds of tax increases, we must make sure we have looked at and realized all efficiencies in state government. There are things being requested in agency budgets for fiscal year 2018 that can certainly wait for more prosperous times. There are still areas of state waste. Recently we learned from the Government Modernization Committee that the state has saved $3.1 million, for instance, by selling underutilized state government properties. This is just one example of finding revenue in a lean economy.

The state Senate this week passed House Bill 1845, which will give Oklahomans options of getting a REAL ID compliant with federal law or keeping their current driver’s license. The bill now heads to the governor’s desk. She’s indicated she will sign it. A REAL ID will allow access to federal buildings, military bases and commercial flight. For those concerned about the security of the information on the card, however, they will have a choice of retaining their current state ID.

I had the opportunity last week to assist the Speaker of the House as he gave his weekly update to the media. This is part of my new role as House majority leader. I was able to talk about the serious issues that are important to the people in House District 59. These include having a balanced budget, giving teachers a pay raise, passing REAL ID legislation and other issues.

This was the last week for committee work and now all remaining bills hit the House floor. We have two weeks to consider these measures before passing them to the Senate. Our primary focus is still on the budget and will be as these negotiations are ongoing.

As always, I’d love to hear from you. I can be contacted at Mike.Sanders@OKHouse.Gov or(405) 557-7407.

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