Buono-Vitale Bill To Establish Medical Home Project In NJ Advances

TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Barbara Buono and Senator Joseph F. Vitale which would establish a medical home demonstration project to enhance primary, patient-centered acute care for Medicaid recipients was approved by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee today by a vote of 9-0.

“New Jersey can and should promote a more cost-effective model of health care that provides better patient outcomes at a fraction of the cost,” said Senator Buono, D-Middlesex. “Especially when it comes to New Jersey’s limited health care resources for those in greatest need, we have to explore every possibility to maximize our results and minimize the cost to taxpayers. The medical home model of health care holds a lot of promise, and may revolutionize the delivery of health care in this country.”

“The United States has one of the most inefficient health care delivery mechanisms in the entire industrialized world,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex, and Vice Chairman of the Senate Health Committee. “Billions of dollars each year are diverted away from direct care to health care administration, and we need a better model that focuses more on the needs of the health care consumers and less on the business of health care. This bill lets New Jersey review the cost savings and health care benefits of a medical home model of care, and move towards a more cost-efficient system if it makes sense.”

The bill, S-665, would require 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, 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 patients, rather than focusing on diseases, health care officials can provide better health care for less money.

“Early estimates have demonstrated that switching to a medical home system of care, as opposed to the current ‘sick-care’ method of only treating patients when their symptoms become too great to ignore, will save more than $67 billion annually,” said Senator Buono. “At a time when we want to make our health care dollars go farther, and ensure everyone has access to quality health care, those are savings we can’t leave on the table. New Jersey has a responsibility to explore the medical home system of healthcare to improve patient outcomes and make better use of our limited health care dollars.”

The bill would require that the Medicaid program consider payment methodologies that support care-coordination through multi-disciplinary teams and health care specialists. The bill would 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 would 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.

“The medical home model of care has shown a lot of potential in other areas where it’s been adopted, but we need to proceed cautiously,” said Senator Vitale. “Any system of health care which either sacrifices the quality or affordability of care has to be rejected outright if we’re ever going to realize the true promise of universal care. While I believe that medical home offers our best opportunity to make health care more affordable and improve the quality of care, our legislation will provide the level of scrutiny needed before we fully commit to a new way of delivering health care in New Jersey.”

The bill now heads to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for consideration before going to the full Senate for review.

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