Pa. Senate backs bill to expand role of nurse practitioners

Pennsylvania's Capitol Building in Harrisburg (Commonwealth of Pennsylvania))

Pennsylvania's Senate is advancing legislation that backers say will help make health care more available through nurses, and less expensive.

The Senate voted 44-6 on Wednesday to allow certified nurse practitioners to practice independently of physicians.

Supporters say 22 other states have similar laws.

The Pennsylvania Medical Society opposes the bill.

It says there are more effective ways to get health care to underserved areas, and says expanding the role of nurse practitioners may increase health care costs.

Under the bill, nurse practitioners could practice independently after serving a three-year, 3,600-hour collaboration agreement with a physician.

Similar legislation has passed the Senate twice previously before dying in the House of Representatives.

The legislation is backed by nurses' organizations, the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania, the AARP and SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania.