The idea of equal pay for equal work is simple and common sense: People who perform the same work at the same level should be compensated equally. Go out on the street and ask anyone you see if they believe in this principle, and you’ll get a whole lot of agreement—even if there’s broad acknowledgement that we have a long way to go to get there.
In the Oregon legislature, there’s an important bill—House Bill 2902-A—that would write this principle into state law for the health industry. Historically, insurance companies have paid Nurse Practitioners and Physicians Assistants the same rates they’ve paid to doctors for the same work.
The insurance companies charge their customers the same, no matter who performs the work, so it’s only fair that they pay the same rates to health care providers as well.
But in the last few years, corporate insurance companies have discovered that they can cut the rates they pay to Nurse Practitioners and Physicians Assistants—even though they’re still charging their customers the same amount—and then pocketing the rest.
HB 2902-A would simply require that insurance companies pay Nurse Practitioners and Physicians Assistants the same rates they pay doctors for the same work.
Sounds simple and straightforward, right?
This bill has already passed the House, but now corporate interests are lining up to defeat HB 2902 A. Why? Insurers sit on the boards of business associations, along with representatives from corporations like Koch Industries and big banks.
Restoring equal pay for equal work will ensure consumers have access to care, won’t increase health care costs, and will treat Nurse Practitioners fairly.
Finally, more than 90 percent of Oregon Nurse Practitioners are women. Many are small business owners. And many are being bullied by the same corporate insurers trying to kill this bill and given the “choice” of taking a reimbursement cut or resigning from a provider panel.
In a state where women make 78 cents per dollar earned by their male colleagues, it’s maybe not unsurprising to see these practices perpetuated, but it is unfortunate. Equal pay for equal work should not be an issue in 2013.
Oregon should be a leader on closing the gender wage gap, and we shouldn’t let the corporate lobby protect their profits at the expense of fairness and equity. HB 2902-A is a solid step in the right direction, and will help protect Nurse Practitioners in Oregon.
Go here to contact your State Senator and urge him or her to pass House Bill 2902-A.