Medical, health-related bills advance in 2013 legislature

House and Senate bills that would allow certified registered nurse practitioners and certified nurse midwives to prescribe certain controlled substances cleared separate steps toward passage today (4/24).

A committee also cleared a medical provider conscientious objection bill.

The House Health Committee approved SB 229 by Sen. Greg Reed, R-Jasper, and the Senate Health Committee approved the House version, HB 307 by Rep. Jim McClendon, R-Springville. The bills advance for consideration by the full House and Senate.

The Business Council of Alabama actively supports efforts to discuss options to better clarify the roles of nurse practitioners in the provision of primary medical care services in Alabama.

Reed said allowing certified registered nurse practitioners and certified nurse midwives to be able to prescribe pain killers will help expand medical service in Alabama, especially in rural areas. He said Alabama is one of only a handful of states that does not allow the practice.

“This is a health access issue,” Reed said. “There are so many areas across Alabama especially in rural areas that nurse practitioners are the primary care. This will provide better access.”

After the committee meeting, Reed gave an example of a patient who had accidentally cut her hand and got the wound stitched but had to wait most of the day before a physician could prescribe a pain killer.

A health care provider conscientious objection bill advanced in a House subcommittee on Wednesday. On a voice vote the House Healthcare Costs Subcommittee approved HB 354 that would allow health care employees to opt out of working on medical procedures for moral reasons, such as abortions. Sponsor Rep. April Weaver, R-Brierfield, said she hopes the bill that has failed to pass in previous sessions will make it this year.

“It’s important because as a health care provider personal beliefs should be allowed in refusing to participate in a procedure that’s objectionable,” said Weaver, a healthcare administrator. The subcommittee’s vote sent the measure to the House Health Committee.

The bill would protect an employee who exercises his or her conscience from retribution or discrimination by his or her employer. The bill was on the Republican House members agenda announced at the beginning of the 2013 legislative session.

“The basic concept is that if health care providers perform services that violate someone’s conscience, there’s immunity from discrimination if you choose not to participate,” Weaver said when announcing the bill.

The employee must provide written advance notice of his or her objection. Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, has the Senate version, SB 251. It’s in the Senate Health Committee.

-Dana Beyerle