Masks are required as the campus is at red status.

A prescription for Arkansas’s primary care shortage

By Caleb Taylor

ACRE Director and UCA Associate Professor of Economics Dr. David Mitchell recently discussed the role of nurse practitioners in increasing access to care in Arkansas.

Arkansas currently ranks 46th on the physician per capita list produced by the Association of American Medical Colleges, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Mitchell stated in an interview with Paul Harrell of Conduit News that reforming scope of practice regulations on nurse practitioners to allow for full practice authority could lead to hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings for Arkansas taxpayers annually.

Currently, Arkansas law only allows for nurse practitioners to practice under the supervision of physicians. Twenty-two other states have less restrictions on nurse practitioners than Arkansas.

Mitchell said:

We figured out that if only a few people on Medicaid switched to Nurse Practitioners from physicians we’d save about $575,000 per year. If more people switched, we’d save $1.7 million per year. What could we do with $1.7 million per year? We could give the money back to taxpayers. That’s a lot of police officers and a lot of school teachers. That’s a huge savings.”


For a full breakdown of the Medicaid savings from expanding scope of practice for nurse practitioners in Arkansas, check out our infographic here.

You can watch the full interview with Harrell here: 


Mitchell also authored an op-ed on December 31st entitled “Better health care” in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Mitchell discussed some of the common objections to increasing scope of practice authority for nurse practitioners in Arkansas.

Mitchell wrote:

Some worry that advanced-practice clinicians like NPs might have worse results than physicians or be practicing inferior medicine. Yet a randomized trial published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) between physicians and nurse practitioners showed that nurse practitioners provide equivalent care. JAMA is the premier peer-­reviewed medical journal. A follow-up in Medical Care Research and Review confirmed that there was no difference between the groups in terms of primary-care health outcomes.”


For more on this topic, check out  Solving Arkansas’s Primary Care Problems by Empowering Nurse Practitioners  co-authored by Mitchell, Jordan Pfaff, and Zachary Helms.