Survey on health insurers advancing NP credentialing is major step for improving access, cost

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — The message is getting louder and gaining traction: Nurse practitioners are highly skilled health care professionals who need to be able to practice to the full scope of their ability, especially in light of the primary care shortage that is plaguing the nation.

(THE NEWS: Survey: Health insurers show advances in NP credentialing, reimbursement. Click here for the full story.)

Lawmakers and other officials are taking notice and according to survey findings, so are HMOs. As the survey found, 75% of HMOs credential nurse practitioners as primary care providers, an increase over previous years. While this is good news for the nursing industry, there’s no doubt that there is room for improvement.

As the survey stated, there needs to be 100% credentialing in order “for the healthcare system to be ready for the huge influx of new patients in 2014. ... All nurse practitioners must be able to practice to, and be compensated for, the full scope of their ability.” This is a standard that needs to be expanded nationwide.

The reason why this is critical is quite clear. First of all, there’s healthcare reform that will put roughly 30 million uninsured Americans into the coverage rolls come 2014, and then there’s the physician shortage in this country. It is estimated that the primary care physician shortage will reach about 60,000 by 2015.

According to numbers provided by the Convenient Care Association, as few as 2% of medical students coming out of U.S. medical schools intending to pursue a career in general primary care. Also, between 30% and 60% of patients of convenient care clinics — which are typically staffed by nurse practitioners — reported not having a primary care physician. Plus, as many as 40% of convenient care clinic patients said they would have sought costlier care or would have foregone care completely if there had not been a convenient care clinic available.

Clearly, there’s a gap in care that needs to be filled.

Meanwhile, a recent Rand survey served as a stark reminder of how the other side can distort the issue with half-truths and oversights.