AUSTIN (Nexstar) — State Senator César Blanco (D-El Paso) on Tuesday presented legislation he argues will reduce Texas’ healthcare gaps and enable Advanced Practice Registered Nurses to better care for patients.

SB 1700, dubbed HEAL or “Healthcare Expanded and Accessed Locally,” would allow APRNs to practice primary care services, such as diagnosing illnesses and prescribing medications, without the supervision of a physician. Under current law, they may only do so under the authority of a physician.

“The HEAL Texans Act would allow nurse practitioners to continue to do the work they have already been doing, just without the administrative barriers and the financial barriers of having a supervising physician,” Blanco said.

Blanco cited data showing 90% of Texas counties are suffering a shortage in primary healthcare providers, impacting 7.5 million Texans. He said this will empower existing nurse practitioners to provide care where a physician may not.

“I am alive, I am able to come and talk to you today, because of the life-saving care I received from my nurse practitioner,” said Charity Davis, a cancer survivor from Amarillo.

A representative of the Texas Medical Association interrupted the press conference Tuesday to question Senator Blanco’s claims that medical outcomes are improved under his plan. They asserted outcomes would decrease because nurse practitioners have less expertise than physicians.

Blanco said that debate will continue at another time.