CareFirst will recognize nurse practitioners as primary caregivers

While members of the American Medical Association may have their doubts about whether nurses are up to the task of serving as primary-care providers, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield of Baltimore apparently has no such qualms. An announcement made by the insurer last Friday that nurse practitioners will be allowed to serve in an independent primary-care capacity means that patients in Maryland, Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C., no longer will be limited to seeing primary-care doctors for everyday care. 

"When you look at the projection of the shortage of physicians...nurse practitioners may be very important to the future needs of growing communities," Jennifer Teeter, assistant vice president of payer contracting for Frederick (Md.) Memorial Healthcare System, told Gazette.Net

The announcement is the culmination of a collaboration between the Maryland Coalition of Nurse Practitioners (MCNP), the Nurse Practitioner Association of Maryland (NPAM) and CareFirst to expand coverage in the wake of both the new health reform law and the physician shortage plaguing the U.S. Bruce Edwards, CareFirst senior vice president for networks management, added in a press release that the insurer aims to increase its emphasis on primary care through its Primary Care Medical Home Program (PCMH), set to begin this January. 

"With these developments ahead and an existing need to expand access to these services, allowing nurse practitioners to practice independently as primary-care providers is a logical move to serve our members better," Edwards said. 

In response to CareFirst's announcement, Gary Simmons, vice president with UnitedHealthcare of the Mid-Atlantic, said that his company also was looking into the nurse-practitioner-as-primary-caregiver option. 

To learn more:
- read CareFirst's announcement
- here's the Gazette.Net article