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KMS Update: 2021 Legislative session adjourns

From KMS Executive Director Rachelle Colombo
The 2021 legislative session adjourned early Saturday morning, May 8th at nearly 2:00 a.m. During the final week of the session, the efforts to pass APRN legislation intensified considerably but, in the end, the legislature took no action on the issue. This late-session push for the APRN bill was for all practical purposes taken over and controlled by staff and lobbyists for the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and Americans for Prosperity. The two business groups wanted legislative leaders to circumvent the normal legislative process rules in order to pass an APRN bill even though such legislation had not been passed by either health committee nor debated on the floor of the House or Senate during the prior four months of the regular legislative session.

Their plan was to attach some version of APRN independent practice onto an unrelated bill in a conference committee which would then send it to the two legislative bodies for a final, un-amendable vote. Those dynamics complicated our efforts to work towards meaningful compromise because it was never clear who was actually speaking for the nurses. Nevertheless, KMS continued to meet with APRN advocates and legislative leaders in good faith to see if there was an approach that addressed the nurses’ stated concerns without violating our principles, including our belief that APRNs who desire independent practice that overlaps into the practice of medicine and surgery should be licensed by the Board of Healing Arts and their scope of practice statutorily defined and regulated consistent with their education, training, and experience. Throughout this process KMS offered several possible approaches, but no agreement was reached, as APRN advocates made it clear that they would accept nothing short of fully independent unsupervised practice, without limitation or oversight by physicians or the Board of Healing Arts.
 
Although the legislature has adjourned and we will not face the threat of this effort again until January, our work is far from done. The Kansas Chamber has vowed to make this issue their number one priority next session, and we can expect Americans for Prosperity to spend considerable funds again advocating for the APRNs. Their message mischaracterized and over-simplified this issue, but it was persuasive to many legislators—until they began hearing from the physician community. Kansas physicians are respected and trusted, and your reasonable, timely, and factual communications to legislators were critical to our advocacy efforts. In particular, I would like to acknowledge and thank the strong support and advocacy throughout this process from the Kansas Academy of Family Physicians, the Kansas Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the other medical specialty societies that helped make this outcome possible.
 
In the coming months, I encourage you to talk to your patients, talk to your neighbors, your friends in the business community, and especially your elected officials. This is not a professional “turf battle” between physicians and nurses, nor a political skirmish without consequences. Patients deserve and want access to a physician-led team and we will continue to work to ensure that isn’t threatened by professionally or politically motivated pursuits.
 
Later this week, we will send you a more comprehensive summary of this legislative session.
 
As always, it is a pleasure to advocate on behalf of Kansas physicians and the patients they serve. If you have questions about legislative or other matters, please contact me.