26 practices chosen for health care project

By Meg Haskell, BDN Staff
Posted July 08, 2009, at 7:20 p.m.

The Dirigo Health Agency and other health policy groups in Maine have identified 26 primary care practices that will participate in a three-year “patient-centered medical home” pilot project.

The new primary care model aims to improve patient health and lower costs by coordinating care, integrating behavioral and public health services with medical care, emphasizing prevention and compensating primary care practices for providing these services.

Many Mainers have no “medical home” but seek care as needed at walk-in clinics and hospital emergency departments, according to Dr. Josh Cutler of the Maine Quality Forum, a program of the Dirigo Health Agency. The medical home model envisions connecting every patient with a primary care practice that provides comprehensive services and referrals to appropriate specialists.

“Our goal is that patients will become comfortable with having these practices be their first point of contact for any kind of care,” Cutler said Wednesday.

Over time, the medical home model is expected to reduce health care expenditures by improving wellness and decreasing emergency visits and hospitalizations. Another goal is to attract more new physicians to primary care practices by increasing insurance reimbursements and improving the work environment.

The pilot project got a boost recently when the state Legislature approved $500,000 in the biennial budget, eligible for federal matching funds, to help compensate medical providers for the added cost of providing the extra services to patients covered by MaineCare, the state’s Medicaid program.

Cutler said each of the participating practices will negotiate separately with private insurance carriers to garner support for the project.

“We’re hopeful that reimbursements will be satisfactory enough to the practices to help them facilitate these changes,” he said.

Additional funding for the project has come from the Maine Quality Forum and the Maine Health Access Foundation.

In addition to the Maine Quality Forum, the pilot program is being supported by the nonprofit Quality Counts organization, a coalition of health care groups aimed at improving the quality of medical care delivered in Maine, and the Maine Health Management Coalition, a group that purchases health care benefits for nearly 250,000 Maine workers and their families.

Practices selected to participate in the pilot include Blue Hill Family Medicine in Blue Hill; the Community Health Center in Southwest Harbor; Dexter Family Practice in Dexter; Eastern Maine Medical Center’s Center for Family Medicine in Bangor; Helen Hunt Health Center in Old Town; Husson Internal Medicine in Bangor; Husson Pediatrics in Bangor; Newport Family Practice in Newport; Penobscot Community Health Center in Bangor; Penobscot Pediatrics in Bangor; and Seaport Family Practice in Belfast.

mhaskell@bangordailynews.net

990-8291

http://bangordailynews.com/2009/07/08/news/bangor/26-practices-chosen-for-health-care-project/ printed on November 20, 2014