Washington, D.C. - To ease credentialing for Oklahoma physicians, the Council for Affordable Quality Healthcare (CAQH) today announced the launch of its Universal Credentialing DataSource system in the state. CAQH, a not-for-profit alliance of the nation's leading health plans and networks, developed this system to help physicians more easily and cost-effectively provide required credentialing information to health care organizations. Participating health plans in Oklahoma include Aetna, CIGNA HealthCare of Oklahoma Inc., The First Health Network/CCN Network and UNICARE.

The new CAQH Universal Credentialing DataSource service enables physicians to satisfy the credentialing needs of all participating health care organizations by submitting their information one time to the uniform system. The free, secure service allows physicians to submit data by fax or Web using the Oklahoma Uniform Credentialing Application. Universal Credentialing DataSource makes it possible for physicians to spend just a few minutes each quarter to confirm that their credentialing information is complete and accurate.

Today, physicians face the redundant and time-consuming process of credentialing or recredentialing with individual health plans once every three years. During this timeframe, information often becomes outdated. The CAQH system provides a time-saving solution that helps ensure information is up-to-date for credentialing and payment processing, and for use in health plans' electronic and paper directories.

"Most physicians contract with 10 or more health plans. The credentialing process can require a separate interaction with each plan," said David Valdez, MD, interim medical director for Aetna's Southwest region. "CAQH members are committed to easing this burden for physicians by creating a universal way to submit this important information. Easing the credentialing process is an important step in our efforts to simplify the business of health care."

Any health care organization with credentialing requirements is encouraged to participate in Universal Credentialing DataSource. All participating health care organizations pay an annual per physician/provider fee for unlimited access to completed records, in addition to a small annual administrative fee to offset system maintenance and customer service requirements. Each health care organization reviews and verifies credentialing data, and decides independently whether or not a physician meets its standards for participation.

Data collected through Universal Credentialing DataSource is maintained by CAQH in a secure, state-of-the-art data center, and is only made available to health care organizations that have been authorized by each physician. Health care organizations are automatically notified when a physician's information changes.

"To make Universal Credentialing DataSource a truly universal solution for physicians, CAQH members also have welcomed non-member health plans to participate in the system," said Marjorie O'Malley, senior vice president, CIGNA HealthCare, and chair of the CAQH credentialing committee. "This credentialing system is a winning proposition for all partners in the health care industry, and one that we're certain the Oklahoma health care community will embrace."

To create Universal Credentialing DataSource, CAQH worked with providers, health plans and networks, professional associations, insurance regulators and accreditation associations. The service first launched in Virginia and Colorado in March 2002, and it is now also available to physicians in Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, D.C., and Wisconsin. CAQH plans to launch Universal Credentialing DataSource nationwide in 2003.

To raise awareness of the availability of Universal Credentialing DataSource in Oklahoma, CAQH has mailed a registration kit to physicians in the state, inviting them to participate in the service. The kit includes a temporary ID that physicians can use to register in the system. Physicians who are affiliated with a participating health plan, but who have not received the registration kit, can call the Help Desk at 888-599-1771 or contact a participating health plan directly.

About CAQH
The Council for Affordable Quality Healthcare (CAQH) is a not-for-profit alliance of health plans and networks that promotes collaborative initiatives to help make healthcare more affordable, share knowledge to improve the quality of care, and make administration easier for physicians and their patients. Created in 1999, CAQH member organizations today provide and administer health care coverage for more than 100 million Americans.

CAQH members include: Aetna, American Association of Health Plans, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, AultCare, Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, CIGNA, Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield, First Health, Great-West, Group Health Cooperative, Health Insurance Association of America, Health Net, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, Independence Blue Cross, MultiPlan, Mutual of Omaha, Oxford Health Plans, The Regence Group, and WellPoint.

Kathleen Sheridan
(212) 445-8475

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