The Key Health Care Issues in the 2016 Election


By Megan M. Krischke, contributor

“I think that the upcoming presidential election is going to be focused on public health,” began Donna M. Nickitas, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, CNE, FNAP, FAAN, editor of Nursing Economic$. “We will see issues around public safety--we certainly need to address the gun issues and protecting our schools and children. There will be concerns about our environment--clean air and safe water--and as climate changes occur, we need to be concerned about disaster relief and preparation.”

Katherine Evans: Nurses should know health care issues in Election 2016

“I think that we are going to see a lot of focus on health care entitlements--nurses need to be paying attention to that,” added Katherine Evans, DNP, FNP-C, GNP-BC, ACHPN, president-elect of the Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association (GAPNA). “Nurses need to find out how those running for office are thinking about Medicaid expansion, Medicare and how reimbursement is going to be handled. Our new elected officials are going to be critical in how health care exchanges are modified and adjusted.”

Nickitas said that it is important for nurses to be aware of the political world because much of health care is regulated by state and federal law, as well as regulatory agencies such as state boards of health. Nurses are bound by license to follow those statutory and regulatory laws.

“As a health provider, I am concerned about the health and well-being of society and advancing the health of the nation,” Nickitas said. “I want elected officials who share these values and who want to see the homeless or mentally disabled get the care they need.”

“Nurses should be seeking to elect people who will look at local and national health care needs critically, and who are willing to bring in a nursing perspective,” Evans stated. “We need to look for candidates who understand, or who will let us help them understand, what nursing is, that there are a variety of education levels and that nurses practice in a variety of ways.”

“Does the candidate understand the nursing and the nursing faculty shortage and the reality of the ‘silver tsunami’ that is beginning to hit healthcare?” she continued. “Are they bringing nurses to the table to help develop a plan for dealing with a health care system that is going to be stretched thin?”

These nursing leaders note that many candidates are saying that there need to be changes to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but nurses should know what changes these candidates have in mind and how they will impact patients and the nursing profession.

Donna Nickitas: Nurses can impact the health care system

As more people are entering the health care system due to the changes brought on by the ACA, legislators and those leading regulatory agencies need to understand that allowing to nurses to practice at the full extent of their training will relieve some of the pressure on the system.

“Nurses need to be concerned about seeing state laws that will enhance their practice rather than limit it,” Nickitas encouraged. “In New York, we have seen legislation passed that nurse practitioners (NPs) with at least three years of clinical practice no longer need to be in a collaborative practice with a physician--that is pretty progressive.”

She noted that studies show that NPs provide quality primary care without incident and in fact outperform their physician colleagues in a number of evaluation points.

“For a nurse just stepping into the political arena, a good place to start is by just monitoring what is happening in health care politics. One way I do that is through the professional organizations to which I belong,” explained Evans. “I can find on their websites and through their emails and social media information about their legislative priorities and how I can be a part of that.”

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