FTC Cautions States against Overbroad Regulation of Nurse Practitioners in Continued Effort to Promote Expanded Roles for Non-traditional Providers

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a well-established role in promoting competition in the health care industry through enforcement, study and advocacy. To that end, the agency actively urges the opening of health care markets to a broader range of providers. For example, the FTC previously found that a state dentistry board illegally thwarted competition by working to bar non-dentist providers of teeth-whitening goods and services. In 2011, the agency issued competition advocacy comments to a pending Tennessee state bill, concluding that the proposed physician-supervision requirements for certain pain-management services would result in reduced access and increased prices. Similarly, over the past three years, the FTC has issued comments analyzing the likely competitive effects of proposed changes to advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) regulations in Massachusetts, Connecticut, West Virginia, Louisiana, Kentucky, Texas and Florida. The FTC has now gone beyond a case-by-case approach on these issues, with the issuance on March 7 of a policy paper titled Policy Perspectives: Competition and the Regulation of Advanced Practice Nurses.

The FTC advocates in its paper for the expansion of APRN scope of practice, cautioning state legislators that “[p]hysician supervision requirements may raise competition concerns because they effectively give one group of health care professionals the ability to restrict access to the market by another, competing group of health care professionals, thereby denying health care consumers the benefits of greater competition.”

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