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2019 Letters to the editor stock

Indiana ranks 32nd among states when it comes to primary care access. Many Indiana counties, particularly rural ones, remain under the Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) designation, meaning thousands of Hoosiers live in an area identified as lacking the adequate number of health care providers for the population.

But nurse practitioners (NPs) are working hard to improve these conditions for patients. Just recently, thousands of NPs from across the country gathered in Indianapolis for the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) national conference. Expanding access to primary care services was among the most frequently discussed topics as was how NPs can help reverse the opioid epidemic.

Unfortunately, patients across the state face needless barriers to primary care because of outdated scope of practice laws preventing NPs from practicing independently in Indiana, and the 2019 legislative session closed without action on this critical issue. Many of the state’s legislators recognize the importance of expanding access to primary care and its potential positive impact on reducing long-term and more costly issues like high hospital readmission rates or chronic disease management. Currently, 22 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands have passed licensure laws that allow patients full and direct access to the outstanding care offered by nurse practitioners. Indiana is not one of them. These states include 8 of the top 10 in rankings of health care access and quality.

With two out of three voters supporting legislation that gives them full and direct access to primary care services provided by NPs, it’s time for patients’ voices to be heard.

Sophia Thomas, president of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners

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Editor

Marc Chase is a veteran investigative reporter, columnist and editor of more than two decades. He currently leads The Times news staff as local news editor. He can be reached at 219-933-3327.