PEARL RIVER COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - One state lawmaker says an outdated law in Mississippi is standing in the way of more healthcare in rural areas, and stifling economic growth in the medical industry. State Senator Angela Hill of Pearl River County has proposed a new bill in hopes of changing that.
"That's a happy ear. Let's look at the other one," said Chris Fletcher as he conducted an examination on a young patient.
Fletcher is a nurse practitioner for a pediatric clinic in Picayune. He's only able to practice medicine there because there is a medical doctor within 15 miles of the clinic that he can get advice from if necessary. The idea of the law is to have physician oversight close by, but many folks in the medical field say with today's technology that rule is obsolete.
"Because we have the internet, we have cell phones. We have lots of technology that makes that 15 mile rule pretty irrelevant," said Zach Allen, with Children's International Medical Group.
Senator Angela Hill believes changing the law could open the doors to more medical clinics in rural areas of the state, create more jobs in the medical field, and ultimately help make Mississippians healthier.
"With our health care statistics, with the unemployment rates that we have, the people recently laid off in the oil fields, out at Stennis with the contract change, the last thing we need to be doing is sticking to an antiquated rule that prohibits access to healthcare and prohibits private business development," explained Hill.
Senator Hill has authored a bill that would abolish the 15 mile rule, but at the same time continue the partnership between the physician and nurse practitioner. Healthcare leaders say the change could give Mississippi's medical industry an economic shot in the arm.
"We estimate that rural health clinics bring in about $800,000 to almost $1 million in economic productive per year. That's the average. So legislation like this would allow economic development in very small rural communities," said Ryan Kelly Executive Director of the Mississippi Rural Healthcare Association.
According to Senator Hill, Mississippi is the only state that has a 15 mile rule. Her bill is now being reviewed in a state sub-committee and faces a February 22nd deadline to come out of committee or it dies.