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TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – Wading into a fierce debate in the health-care industry, a House panel Wednesday approved a bill that would increase the authority of advanced registered nurse practitioners to care for patients.

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The House Health Innovation Subcommittee voted 9-4 to approve the measure (HB 547), sponsored by Rep. Cary Pigman, R-Avon Park.

The bill, in part, would allow nurse practitioners to prescribe controlled substances. Also, it would allow nurse practitioners who meet certain requirements to be designated as “independent advanced practice registered nurses,” which would allow them to provide many services without physician supervision.

“This is about trying to establish some economies and efficiencies and competition in health care,” said Pigman, a physician. “This is predicated on a notion that we cannot continue to increase spending on health care doing what we’re doing now.”

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Though Pigman is a physician, he differs from doctors’ groups that have long fought efforts to expand the powers of nurse practitioners. Those critics argue, in part, that nurse practitioners don’t have the same training as physicians.

“This is not what I believe is best for Florida patients, and as legislators we should be careful not to award titles and privileges through legislation but rather leave it to education,” said Rep. Ronald “Doc” Renuart, a Ponte Vedra Beach Republican who is a physician.

Voting for the bill were Subcommittee Chairman Ken Roberson, R-Punta Gorda; Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah; Rep. Mia Jones, D-Jacksonville; Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes; Rep. Hazel Rogers, D-Lauderdale Lakes; Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor; Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota; and Rep. Jay Trumbull, R-Panama City. Opposing it were Renuart; Rep. John Cortes, D-Kissimmee; Rep. Fred Costello, R-Ormond Beach; and Rep. Richard Stark, D-Weston.

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“The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.”