Merkley, Lummis Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Increase Access to Care from Nurses, Maintain Patient Choice

Thursday, July 20, 2023

By: Staff

The Skanner News

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley and Wyoming’s U.S. Senator Cynthia Lummis teamed up to introduce the Improving Care and Access to Nurses (I CAN) Act, bipartisan legislation that would remove federal barriers to practice in federal health programs for Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs). This legislation is a pathway to increasing patient choice, lowering health care costs, and empowering nurses and patients alike.

“As the husband of a nurse, I know just how valuable and critical care provided by nurses is and the impact they have on their patients,” said Senator Merkley.

“Removing these barriers will increase patients’ access to highly-trained nurses, reduce costs, and improve care for patients.”

“The federal government should not stand in the way of people in Wyoming getting high quality health care,” said Senator Lummis. “Allowing advanced practice registered nurses to treat more patients will help lower costs and expand health care access in underserved rural communities throughout Wyoming.”

Removing barriers

Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) are prepared at the masters or doctoral level to provide primary, acute, chronic, and specialty care to patients of all ages and backgrounds, and in all settings. APRNs include nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, nurse-midwives, and clinical nurse specialists, and all play a pivotal role in the future of health care. Currently, there are federal barriers and institutional rules that limit APRN practice and prevent APRNs from providing the full scope of the health care services they have been trained to provide. These laws and regulations reduce patients’ access to services-particularly in underserved areas-and disrupt continuity of care, increase costs in our health system, and undermine efforts to improve the quality of health care.

The I CAN Act would increase access, improve quality of care, and lower costs in the Medicare and Medicaid programs by removing barriers to practice for APRNs, consistent with National Academy of Medicine (NAM) recommendations.

Companion legislation was introduced earlier this year in the House by Representatives Dave Joyce (R-OH-14), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR-01), Jennifer Kiggans (R-VA-02), and Lauren Underwood (D-IL-14).

The I CAN Act is endorsed by the American Nurses Association (ANA), American Association of Nurse Anesthesiology (AANA), American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), and the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM). Over 200 health care organizations, including the Oregon Nurses Association (ONA) and the Oregon Association of Nurse Anesthetists (ORANA), have urged Congress to support this legislation.

Bill text can be found here. A bill summary can be found here.