(Host) Vermont’s "Blueprint for Health" program is being touted by the Obama Administration as a way to help improve patient care and reduce medical costs for people with chronic diseases.
Now the Administration is creating a national pilot project that would pay states like Vermont for including Medicare patients in the program.
VPRs Bob Kinzel reports.
(Kinzel) Currently, Vermont has two communities, St. Johnsbury and Burlington, which are implementing major reforms in the payment reimbursement system for patients with chronic diseases. A third program is being established in central Vermont.
The goal is to encourage health care providers to establish a coordinated team approach with these patients rather than have primary care doctors, nurses, specialists, and social workers offer this care in separate settings.
Dr. John Brumsted is the chief quality care officer at Fletcher Allen hospital. He says the program allows providers to be reimbursed for the additional time that they spend with patients, as long as specific quality care standards are met:
(Brumsted) "What that allows the physician to do is sit down with a list of their diabetic patients and make sure that they’ve had the appropriate blood tests and have somebody in their office who’s got that data all set up for them. But then they can be reimbursed for the time that they spend going through that list and making sure that people are getting the appropriate types of care."
(Kinzel) And Brumsted says it’s now possible to show that patients experience better health outcomes, at a lower cost, when they receive this kind of care:
(Brumsted) "If those core processes are done appropriately then the outcomes are better. That’s why those measures have been accepted and we have those measures for a lot of the high volume diagnoses reasons that people get admitted to the hospital."
(Kinzel) Governor Jim Douglas was in Washington for the announcement by the Obama Administration. He says it’s a significant development:
(Douglas) "The problem has been that although Medicaid and the private health insurance companies have all been participating in our Blueprint for Health strategy, Medicare has not been a part of that."
(Kinzel) And Douglas says Vermont’s experience with Medicaid patients shows that the Blueprint approach does lower costs:
(Douglas) "Already we’ve been able to document millions in savings – about an 11% reduction in the number of inpatient hospital admissions of our Medicaid population, and about a 6% decline in emergency room visits. So we know this works."
(Kinzel) Vermont will have to formally apply to win the federal Medicare waiver but Douglas says he’s optimistic that the state’s request will be approved in the next few months.
For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.