Starting with the new year, physicians assistants and nurse practitioners will be allowed to prescribe medications without a doctor's oversight.
Florida has long been a hold out for expanded prescribing powers for these medical providers. But Gov. Rick Scott signed new legislation this summer that changed that.
Todd Wills, Physician Assistant Program director at the University of South Florida, said HB 423 will allow medical providers to help more patients, more quickly.
"By having this expanded prescribing authority, the physicians assistants and nurse practitioners who are taking care of those patients can immediately take care of those issues without calling in another provider who also needs to examine that patient and make the same decision,” Will said.
The new legislation will allow these health providers to prescribe controlled substances - everything from certain painkillers to ADHD medications - without bringing in an additional medical doctor.
Will said that the new law could also help with doctor shortages in the state.
"Florida is one of the last states to expand this prescribing authority. It becomes a more attractive state for people decide to work and practice."
Rep. Cary Pigman (R-Avon Park), who proposed the bill, agrees.
“Now if you're a physicians assistant or nurse practitioner in another state contemplating moving to Florida, that (has been) a big disincentive to move to Florida and yet we have a huge need in primary care,” Pigman said.
Pigman, an emergency room physician, also said it could help lower health care costs. For example, instead of a patient seeing a nurse practitioner, then being referred to a doctor, they can skip a step.
Kentucky is the only state that has not expanded prescribing powers for physicians assistants. Florida was the last state to approve expanded prescribing powers for nurse practitioners.