Friday, October 9, 2009

Adirondack Initiative to be Unveiled at Health Summit

Warned in 2007 that the entire health care system in Adirondacks was at stake, federal and state officials responded with millions of dollars in funding to create a new initiative that will expand health care services in the Adirondacks and serve as a model for under-served regions throughout the country.

That initiative, a multi-year pilot program called the Adirondack Medical Home Demonstration Project, will be unveiled at a second Adirondack Health Summit, to be held October 13 at 10 am at the Warren County Municipal Center in Lake George.

“In August 2007, the New York State Association of Counties convened an Adirondack Health Summit to call attention to an emerging health care crisis in the Adirondacks, especially with regard to primary care. Since then, the region’s health care providers, together with leading payers, have been meeting with he State Health Department to craft a solution. These efforts address health care reform at the local level, where it can be most effective,” said Stephen J. Acquario, the Executive Director of the New York State Association of Counties.

The Adirondack Medical Home Demonstration Project will be launched officially in January, 2010, said Dr. John Rugge, the CEO of Hudson Headwaters Health Network, a consortium of 12 community health care centers Acquario described the Adirondack Medical Home Demonstration Project as a “partnership between health care providers, insurers and government.”

The goal, he said, is to provide “a medical home” for patients in which care is better managed and co-ordinated, especially individuals with complex, chronic conditions that require multiple treatments, medications, and specialty services.

“Primary care clinicians, in collaboration with insurers and the New York State Health Department, are engaged in an initiative to better organize and deliver primary care services while addressing the value and cost of health care services,” said Acquario. “The partnership could reach over 150,000 patients and involve almost 100 physicians and at least seven insurers, including the state. If successful, the model could be replicated in other parts of the state.”

In fact, said U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, “This is a program that may just save health care in the North Country and, what’s more, prove to be a pioneer of national significance. Every crisis represents an opportunity and we are fortunate to have the key health care leaders working together before it is too late.”

The project is supported by Governor Paterson, Commissioner Daines and Deborah Bachrach, Director of the NYS Health Department’s Office of Health Insurance Programs, which includes Medicaid and all public and private insurance programs, said Acquario.

According Acquario, the New York State Health Department is participating in the project as an insurer and has agreed to convene the other major payers across northern New York. Participating insurance companies include the New York State Health Insurance Program (NYSHIP), Empire BlueCross BlueShield, Excellus, Blue Shield of Northeastern New York, Fidelis Care, MVP, and United HeathCare (through the ‘Empire Plan’).

The summit will include local government, business leaders, service organizations, educational institutions and environmental groups. New York State Health Commissioner Richard Daines, MD will be the keynote speaker.

According to Dr. John Rugge, the initiative is one attempt to address the high costs of providing health care and inadequate rates of reimbursement for primary care services.

“Everybody knows the system is broken; we have to change the way we practice medicine and the insurers have agreed in principle that health care providers have to be reimbursed for the costs of delivering that care in a more effective and efficient manner,” said Rugge.

Like the “Doctors Across New York Program,” an initiative announced by New York State’s Health Commissioner in Glens Falls last year that will give new physicians as much as $150,000 to repay medical school loans if they spend at least five years practicing in underserved areas, the new project will help communities recruit and retain physicians, Rugge said. “Primary care physicians can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Rugge said. “They know the value of their work will be recognized.”

The project will be funded in part through grants that will, for example, increase the use of electronic records which will make co-ordinating care easier, said Rugge.

Last week, Governor David Paterson announced that Adirondack health care centers and hospitals would receive a $7 million grant to finance the increased use of electronic records.

According to Rugge, the success of the program will be seen in cost savings derived from fewer trips to the hospitals and unnecessary tests, lower prescription costs and the patient’s healthier lifestyle.

“The average patient may not see a difference in his care, but the chronically ill patient will,” said Rugge. “For adults, disease management will focus on chronic diseases that account for nearly 80% of health care spending. For children, the focus will be providing preventive services and the long-term management of chronic conditions such as obesity.”

By allowing physicians to spend more time with patients and craft individual health care regimens, “primary care will be hiked up to a new level,” said Rugge.

For more news from Lake George, read the Lake George Mirror

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Anthony F. Hall

Anthony F. Hall is the editor and publisher of the Lake George Mirror.

Anthony grew up in Warrensburg and after an education that included studying with beat poet Gregory Corso on an island in the Aegean, crewing a schooner in Hawaii, traveling through Greece and Turkey studying Byzantine art and archeology, and a stint at Lehman Brothers, he returned to the Adirondacks and took a job with legendary state senator Ron Stafford.

In 1998, Anthony and his wife Lisa acquired the Lake George Mirror, once part of a chain of weekly newspapers owned by his father Rob Hall.

Established in the 1880s, the Mirror is America’s oldest resort newspaper.





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