story and photo by Bobby Anderson, Staff Writer
Addressing Oklahoma’s nurses, American Nurses Association President Pam Cipriano stressed the importance of the profession’s collective voice during last week’s Oklahoma Nurses Association annual convention in Norman.
“Clearly this is an unprecedented time of potential change,” the former ICU nurse said. “My sense is even if you don’t read lots of newspapers or aren’t glued to the news stations on TV you know this year has had item after item in our Congress to take action and do something about our health care system.”
The ANA president addressed more than 100 nurses on the second day of the convention covering issues from health care reform to the state of Oklahoma’s health as well as the ongoing struggle for full practice authority for the state’s advanced practice nurses.
“We have been very disappointed in several actions that have been taken by the Trump administration,” Cipriano said.
Cipriano noted the administration slashed the advertising budget for Affordable Care Act enrollment advertising by 90 percent in August.
Last month Kaiser Health News reported Healthcare.gov, the website for consumers to enroll in the marketplace, would be brought down for scheduled maintenance for 12 hours each Sunday during the enrollment period except for one Sunday.
The enrollment period was also decreased by 45 days.
And this month the administration announced it would move to halt premium subsidies.
“Sundays are historically the highest volume (for enrollment),” Cipriano said. “None of these things are illegal but they are backdoor ways of weakening the way the ACA works. This should not be political football.”
“One thing we should realize with these partisan battles – without exception – the entire health profession community has been unified in saying the proposals that have come forward are not the solution to improving health care in our country.”
Cipriano stressed much more work is to be done and nurses should make their voices heard during the process.
And the ACA did give more people access to health care.
“The ACA did allow more than 24 million people to gain insurance,” Cipriano said. “The major failing was underestimating the reaction of the American people as to who would and would not sign up for health insurance. The younger, healthier Americans kind of balked.
“The insurance markets are really the factor that is tipping the seesaw as to whether our current health care laws work or don’t work.”
Oklahoma Nurses Association Executive Director Jane Nelson applauded Cipriano’s message and stressed the importance of Oklahoma nurses being an active part in the legislative process.
Nelson urged nurses to make sure their voices are heard during the process of health care reform.
FIGHT FOR FULL PRACTICE
Cipriano noted full practice authority exists for advanced practice nurses in 22 states as well as the District of Columbia.
“There is more work to be done and it’s very unfortunate one person can be in a position to block some very, very important legislation,” she said. “Most importantly, we know the public is very confused.”
Cipriano did point to a March 2015 Supreme Court ruling that may later come into play in the fight for full practice authority.
The court ruled in favor of the Federal Trade Commission versus the North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners in a case that pitted dentists and oral hygienists against one another.”
Hygienists sued dentists claiming that being able to perform teeth whitening services was in their scope of practice. The highest court in the land agreed that limiting the hygienists was an unfair restraint of trade.
“This is a case we believe will have standing in terms of future challenges to practice,” Cipriano noted.
AMPLIFYING NURSING’S VOICE
When Cipriano took over the ANA in 2014 one of her top priorities was to raise the collective voice of nurses in America.
“I wanted to raise the visibility of nursing so nurses were top of the line when health care issues came forward,” Cipriano said “People ought to be thinking ‘I ought to talk to a nurse about this issue. I need to talk to people who really deliver health care about this.’”
The ANA has launched a mobile advocacy program where you can text SAFER to 52886 to receive alerts. There are also links to to text or call representatives to weigh in on important issues.
In Oklahoma, Cipriano noted that 70 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties still carry a designation of medically underserved areas of population.
“You are always running the treadmill trying to keep up,” she said.