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Buono-Vitale Bill To Establish Medical Home Project In New Jersey Signed Into Law

Measure Would Improve Quality of Care, Lower Costs

TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Barbara Buono and Senator Joseph F. Vitale which establishes a medical home demonstration project to enhance primary, patient-centered acute care for Medicaid recipients was signed into law last week by Governor Christie.

“As New Jersey prepares to implement the national health care reforms advanced by President Obama, and as we seek to do more with less funding available from the State, we need to think outside the box,” said Senator Buono, D-Middlesex, and a member of the Senate Budget Committee. “Medical home represents a new way of thinking in regards to the delivery of health care, and could lower costs while improving patient outcomes. Through this law, we will be able to examine this new health care model and determine if it’s right for New Jersey.”

“Medical home offers an opportunity for personalized, patient-centric health care with a team of doctors dedicated to treating the patient as a whole,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex, and Vice Chairman of the Senate Health Committee. “There’s more of a focus on wellness and disease prevention and a move away from the less effective and more costly ‘sick care’ model of care. By exploring the possibility of shifting our State’s Medicaid program over to a medical home system, we could potentially see healthier patients at a reduced cost to the State’s taxpayers.”

The new law, S-665, requires the State Medicaid program to establish a three-year Medicaid medical home demonstration project to expand the options for Medicaid recipients to receive patient-centered, coordinated primary care.

The medical home model promotes better patients outcomes, a personalized relationship between physicians and patients, coordinated, comprehensive care at all stages of the patient’s life through multi-disciplinary medical care teams, and expanded access to care, including open scheduling, expanded hours and off-hours access through new modes of communication between patients and their physicians. The philosophy behind the medical home model, according to the bill sponsors, is that by focusing on treating patients, rather than focusing on treating diseases, health care officials can provide better health care for less money.

“Quality health care shouldn’t force anyone into bankruptcy,” said Senator Buono. “There simply has to be a cost-effective way to ensure that everyone has access to decent, affordable health care, no matter what their economic status or personal income may be. A medical home health care system could lower costs across the board and pave the way for healthier New Jerseyans moving forward.”

The new law requires that the Medicaid program consider payment methodologies that support care-coordination through multi-disciplinary teams and health care specialists. The bill will develop a system to support primary care providers in creating the organizational structure necessary to provide a medical home, and identify primary care providers for participation in the demonstration project. Finally, the bill will require the Commissioner of Human Services to evaluate the cost-effectiveness and patient outcomes achieved through the demonstration medical home project, as well as issue annual reports to the Governor and the Legislature on their findings.

“As we move towards the promise of affordable, accessible health care for all New Jerseyans, programs like medical home are going to be instrumental in controlling health care costs,” said Senator Vitale. “Health care should be a fundamental right for all Americans, but we have to be pragmatic about how we achieve that level of coverage without putting the country into massive debt. Cost-effective health care spending and renewed investment in health care delivery should go hand in hand, and a medical home system is just one component in what must be a larger push for better, more affordable health care in our country.”

The bill received unanimous support from the Senate and Assembly in June.

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