The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored what we in health care see every day: When your health is at stake as a patient, you deserve and demand the highest-quality, safest care possible — no matter where you live, how old you are, or where you are seeking that care.
We represent the Illinois Association of Nurse Anesthetists, and our members are Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists. No matter how serious your ailment, you face some risks when you are under anesthesia care. You deserve the best.
We are supporting Senate Bill 2566, sponsored by Sen. Melinda Bush in the Illinois Senate. As state legislators debate this proposal in these final weeks of the spring legislative session in Springfield, we think it’s important our patients understand what this issue is really about.
Senate Bill 2566 clarifies the law and treats nurse anesthetists as all other Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs). While nurse anesthetists provide the highest-quality, safest anesthesia care possible every day around the state, some hospitals interpret current Illinois law to require a physician anesthesiologist to be “physically present” while we do our work with patients, even though nearly one-third of the state has no physician anesthesiologist practicing there.
The lack of access to care and higher costs are critical points for this legislation:
• 90 percent of Illinois receives anesthesia care either only or mostly from a nurse anesthetist. We are trained to handle all of the complications that arise during an anesthetic, and more than 15 years of research has come to one conclusion: There is no difference in the safety of care provided by physician anesthesiologists and nurse anesthetists.
• 31 Illinois counties have no registered anesthesia providers, and 74 percent of their surrounding counties have care provided either exclusively or predominantly by nurse anesthetists.
• The federal government’s Medicare program reimburses anesthesia services at the same level for physician anesthesiologists and nurse anesthetists, because it considers the quality and safety of care to be the same.
• Anesthesia costs 25 percent more when physician anesthesiologists direct nurse anesthetists, and care provided only by physician anesthesiologists (used in less than 4 percent of cases) costs more than double the care when CRNAs work with surgeons. The costs of physician anesthesiologists’ salaries on top of CRNAs make anesthesia care unnecessarily expensive.
Our opponents are trying troubling scare tactics about our training and this legislation to throw us off track. But we will not be discouraged.
Patients are safe under CRNA care, as Medicare insurance reimbursement rates confirm. Senate Bill 2566 simply treats nurse anesthetist care like all other APRNs in Illinois, and will encourage more CRNAs to work in the many counties where physician anesthesiologists will not: rural Illinois and in non-hospital settings. No other health care professional’s practice area would be affected by this clarifying change for CRNAs.
Illinois is now among only a handful of states that still require physician anesthesiologists to be physically present while CRNAs do this work. If it works for nearly 45 other states and all other APRNs, we are confident it can work for nurse anesthetists and their patients, too.
CRNAs are a critical part of the medical care we all depend on Illinois every day. This legislation simply clarifies the law to allow us to provide the high-quality, safe care in more counties at lower costs for the health care system. Please join us in support of Senate Bill 2566 for better health care in Illinois.