Expanding Health Care in Rural Areas

The start of the 2023 legislative session is still weeks away, but the lawmaking process has already started. Pre-filing of legislation for the First Regular Session of the 102nd General Assembly began on Dec. 1. So, far, more than 375 separate Senate bills and resolutions have been offered for consideration in the coming months, including 12 bills I sponsored. The legislation I pre-filed include proposals to cut bureaucratic red-tape, expand rural health care and promote patriotic education in our schools. Over the coming weeks I’ll discuss these bills in my weekly updates. In this edition I highlight three proposals intended to expand health care access in rural areas.
Senate Bill 51 would increase Missourians’ direct access to physical therapy services. Under current law, a Missourian who sprains an ankle has to wait for an appointment with a physician and undergo evaluation and screenings that the physician orders before being referred to a physical therapist for treatment. My legislation would allow that patient to go directly to a physical therapist for services that fall within the Physical Therapy Practice Act, helping cut costs for Missourians and improving access to care. Legislation similar to SB 51 passed in the House last session by a vote of 143-9, but did not make it through the Senate. It’s my hope to get this important reform passed out of both legislative chambers this year.
Senate Bill 208 is a commonsense bill that would expand health care options for rural Missourians through Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs). Currently, a nurse may be licensed to practice professional or practical nursing, with each license type limited to providing certain levels of care. My legislation adds a license for nurses trained and qualified to provide additional services. APRNs would be able to provide immediate care in our most rural communities, where a physician may not be available or could be hours away.
Senate Bill 261 is intended to prevent price-gouging and other unlawful merchandising practices on the part of health care staffing agencies during times of declared statewide or national emergencies. My legislation would protect our nursing facilities and hospitals from being held hostage by third-party contractors that could use a monopolistic advantage to jeopardize quality health care, especially in our rural communities. In my opinion, a state or national emergency does not justify for-profit entities lining their pockets at the expense of our most vulnerable populations.
Ensuring access to affordable and quality health care is one of my top priorities. These three bills each address barriers that limit access to care or increase costs unnecessarily. Passage of these measures will expand choices for rural residents and help keep costs in line. I’ll be sure to keep you informed as these bills advance through the legislative process. Also, look for information about other measures I’ve introduced to expand workforce development and educational opportunities in upcoming legislative updates.
It is my honor to serve the residents of Douglas, Howell, Oregon, Ozark, Ripley, Texas, Webster and Wright counties in the Missouri Senate, and it’s always a pleasure to hear from friends and family back home. If I can help you in any way, please call my Capitol Office at 573-751-1882, or my District Office at 417-596-9011.  You can also visit my webpage at www.senate.mo.gov/mem33, on Facebook: @SenatorKarlaEslinger, or follow me on Twitter: @seneslingermo.
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