Docs say more nurses, PAs not a cure-all for rising health care costs

(BizJournals) Family physicians say simply increasing the ranks of nurse practitioners and physician assistants will serve as a magic cure to health care costs or impending doctor and nurse shortages.

Where health care experts predict a real shortage in care is particularly at the primary-care level, where some have said mid-level providers would be able to fill a good role. Family physicians, however, estimate that only 52 percent of nurse practitioners and 43 percent of physician assistants are practicing in primary care.

“Physician assistants (PAs) and nurse practitioners (NPs) are often proposed as solutions to the looming shortage of primary care physicians. However, a large and growing number of PAs and NPs now work outside of primary care, which suggests that innovative policy solutions to increase access to primary care are still needed,” wrote a group of doctors for the American Association of Family Physicians.

It’s a topic of growing debate. Earlier this month, I wrote about how North Carolina imposes some of the strictest rules in the nation on nurse practitioners and what the effects on health care costs are.

Responses came roaring in, with both the N.C. Medical Society and the N.C. Academy of Family Physicians in strong opposition to relaxing those rules.