Access to primary care providers is instrumental to the success of federal and state health care reform efforts. As WNPR's Lucy Nalpathanchil reports, nurse practitioners are an important link in providing care to the newly insured.
Finding a PCP can be a challenge no matter where you live. Nationwide, there is a shortage of primary care physicians--This has caused more than 2 dozen states to debate whether to expand the role of nurse practitioners so they can provide care without the supervision of a doctor.
Nurse Practitioners are registered nurses that have additional education beyond 4 years of nursing school.
In Connecticut, nurse practitioners already have expanded authority ----explains Lynn Price, a member of the Connecticut Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Society and Chair of the Nursing Dept at Quinnipiac University.
"Prior to 1999, nurses practitionerss in Connecticut were in a supervisory relationship with physicians and that's what was changed in 1999 to put in place this collaborative agreement so we are no longer supervised and in Connecticut we do have the full authority to prescribe any kind of medication that we need to for our patients."
While the state is ahead of many in terms of the role nurse practitioners fill, Price says there's a bill working its way through the Legislature that would require insurance companies to classify nurse practitioners as Primary care providers--She says this classification would improve access to care.
"And what that means is not only are we listed, we would be directly on the patients insurance card but we would also be listed in directories and so on. the idea is it would be easier for patients to find a provider that would be able to see them."
The bill has been approved by the General Assembly's insurance committee but it still needs a vote by the full Legislature. Doctors appear supportive of the measure, although the Connecticut State Medical Society, a physicians organization, says insurance companies should also list the degrees of PCPs so patients understand who they're choosing. But the bill's intent couldn't come at a better time. A recent poll by the Medical Society finds a shortage of primary care physicians and lengthy wait times for appointments. This will only be exacerbated when more people enter the insurance pool due to healthcare reform efforts.
For WNPR, I'm Lucy Nalpathanchil.