March 24, 2020
By Jenna Bentley

The COVID-19 outbreak continues to test our care system across the country, with healthcare professionals stretched to the limit to handle growing numbers of patients with the virus. Now Arizona has taken important action to help alleviate the strain on the state’s healthcare system.

Today, Governor Doug Ducey ordered the Arizona Nursing Board and the Arizona Medical Board to exempt all Arizona certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) from an overly burdensome, optional federal regulation that has already been waived in more than a dozen other states and will now match current Arizona law. Until now, CRNAs had to work under direct supervision by a surgeon or anesthesiologist when treating Medicare and Medicaid patients.

CRNAs have proven to be a vital resource in the medical industry and have allowed patients increased access to healthcare professionals. However, the unnecessary requirement that they be supervised by a surgeon or anesthesiologist artificially limited their availability and prevented patients’ access to these skilled medical professionals. CRNAs have advanced training in anesthesia that allows them to care for patients, freeing doctors to treat other medical conditions. But only if the government allows them to work independently. And particularly during the ongoing coronavirus crisis, CRNAs play an especially needed role in treating vulnerable populations and getting them the care they need quickly.

Today’s executive order is something we at the Goldwater Institute are certainly happy to see. In 2017, we worked with a coalition to pass SB1336, a commonsense reform that allowed CRNAs more independence in treating patients and in prescribing authority. Earlier this year, we sent a letter urging the Governor to opt out of the federal supervision mandate against CRNAs. With today’s executive order from Governor Ducey, Arizona joins 17 other states in increasing access to medical care by allowing CRNAs to put their advanced training to use.

Arizona has been a leader among states to increase access to medical care, as several Goldwater-championed bills have become law here. Efforts such as Right to Try, expanded scope of practice for dental therapists, and truth in medicine have improved the lives of people across Arizona, including many of our rural areas.

Now more than ever, allowing healthcare professionals to practice at the top of their medical education and training is essential, so we can better respond to the current healthcare crisis. By allowing CRNAs to use their full range of skills, other physicians will be freed up to assist the patients with most complex medical conditions. The Goldwater Institute applauds Governor Ducey for removing an onerous regulation to CRNAs and allowing our state’s precious medical resources to be directed efficiently to those in the most need.

Jenna Bentley is the Director of Government Affairs at the Goldwater Institute.

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