With the Utah-specific solution for Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) now receiving broad-based debate and discussion from the governor and the 2014 Legislature, a recent decision by Utah Medicaid, the state’s own division of the federal program, lays a welcome and strong foundation for this much-needed policy discussion.

The federal government recently approved Utah’s Medicaid state plan amendment (not to be confused with Gov. Herbert’s block grant request as an alternative to the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion), which will broaden the coverage of nurse practitioner services to include those delivered by women’s health, geriatric, psychiatric mental health, occupational health and adult nurse practitioners. Previously, only pediatric and family nurse practitioners were allowed to bill Medicaid for services. This Medicaid decision will provide for a broader pool of nurse practitioners to deliver primary health care services to some of the most vulnerable patients in Utah. A nurse practitioner is a registered nurse with advanced education and training to provide primary health care, including many tasks customarily performed by a physician, such as the ability to prescribe certain drugs.

As a nurse practitioner and owner of the Eastern Women’s Health Clinic in Price, I am an example of the good this new Medicaid policy will accomplish. Under the new policy, I will be able to become a Medicaid provider, assuring that underserved, low-income women will get the health care they so desperately need. Historically, the Carbon, Emery and Grand County area has had longstanding problems in recruitment and retention of obstetrics and gynecology professionals; the area is a designated health professional shortage area.

Pap smears, physical examinations, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, birth control and treatment for women’s health disorders are now available to rural women who had trouble finding primary care providers in the past. Eastern Utah Women’s Health has created a comfortable, trusted place for women to go for their most personal health care needs. We are a place where a patient can take the time to sit down and openly discuss health care questions, concerns and problems. Whether it is a simple preventive visit or a complex hormonal consultation, I listen, guide and assist patients in their health care decisions.

Having been born and raised in Carbon County, I feel fortunate to be able to raise my family and practice in the area. I am a board certified, doctoral-prepared, women’s health nurse practitioner. I have been a nurse for over 17 years and have practiced exclusively in women’s health care for the past 11 years. I understand the issues and pressures that can affect our lives on many different levels and realize that there is very little time in our day to take care of ourselves. It is my hope that women will take the time for themselves and discover that health care delivered for women, by women, can make the difference in their lives.

With the new Medicaid coverage and people who are committed to women’s health, many lives will be enriched by the availability of these essential services. To find out more about Eastern Utah Women’s Health Clinic, visit facebook.com/EasternUtahWomensHealth.

Danielle Pendergrass has a bachelor's degree in nursing from Weber State University and a master's of nursing, women's health nurse practitioner from the University of Utah. She owns and operates the Eastern Utah Women's Health Clinic in Price.

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