Health care system isn’t designed for chronic illness, commissioner says

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(Host) Health commissioner Dr. Paul Jarris says it’s critical to reform how our health care system reimburses doctors and other providers for services to patients with chronic illnesses. Speaking Tuesday night on VPR’s Switchboard program, Jarris said the current health care system isn’t designed to provide the kinds of preventative care that are needed to effectively treat chronic conditions.

Jarris says dealing with this issue is very important because people with chronic illness account for more than 80 percent of all health care expenditures:

(Jarris) “And I think it’s a great frustration for providers in that we are paid now on what’s called a ‘fee for service’ basis. So we’re basically paid for every patient we see. As a result, for a provider or a doctor to pay their overhead and their staff and take some money home, you’ve got to as a primary care physician probably see 25 or 30 patients a day. It tremendously limits your ability to spend the time you need with people. So the payment mechanism is really working against what we want to have.”

(Host) Jarris says he’s working to a build a partnership with private health insurance companies and government financed programs to recognize the importance of preventative care. He says the current financing system has some serious flaws:

(Jarris) “It doesn’t reward the provider who spends a little extra time. It probably penalizes them. And it doesn’t reward the provider who makes the investment in upgrading and having a better information system and better outreach to their patients – there’s no reward for that. There are some newer initiatives which are beginning to look at how do we in fact provide resources to doctors and providers to invest in quality, and how do we reward them when they provide high quality care?”

(Host) Jarris says the changes are also needed because 50 percent of all patients with chronic illnesses don’t receive an appropriate level of care.

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