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

TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senators Barbara Buono and Joseph F. Vitale which would establish a three-year medical home demonstration project to enhance primary, patient-centered acute care for Medicaid recipients was unanimously approved by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee today.

“The medical home demonstration project will provide enhanced access to primary care in the most appropriate, cost effective setting,” said Senator Buono, D-Middlesex, and Chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee. “This comprehensive healthcare planning process includes a partnership between the physician, patient, and the patient’s family. Carefully integrating these elements of patient care will provide improved access to preventive and primary medical services for the uninsured, thereby reducing the number of Emergency Room visits for primary care services and the cost of those visits to the State.”

“Particularly in a state like New Jersey, with a large number of uninsured individuals, a medical home system could do a lot of good,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex, a member of the Budget Committee and Chairman of the Senate Health Committee. “Right now, our State’s charity care system is putting an undue burden on hospitals to provide primary care to many of these individuals. This bill allows for a more appropriate alternative to the emergency room for people who have nowhere else to turn for their primary care needs.”

The bill, S-2394, 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.

“The US health care model is among the most inefficient systems in the entire world, and is not meeting its true potential in helping patients receive meaningful care,” said Senator Vitale. “A recent national study has shown that if every US resident received care under a medical home model, we could save, nationally, approximately $67 billion per year. We must push health care into the 21st century, and the medical home model is the most promising new development in comprehensive family healthcare and primary care in a long time.”

The bill would restructure the State’s Medicaid payment system to support primary care providers that use a medical home model. The bill would also develop a system to support primary care providers in creating the organizational structure necessary to provide a medical home, and identifies primary care providers for participation in the demonstration project. Finally, the bill requires the Director of the Division of Medical Assistance and Health Services, which administers the State Medicaid program, to evaluate the cost-effectiveness and patient outcomes achieved through the demonstration medical home project, and issue annual reports to the Governor and the Legislature on their findings.

“This bill would allow New Jersey to study the benefits, both in terms of cost-savings and patient care, promised by the medical home model,” said Senator Buono. “We simply cannot continue putting an undue and unnecessary burden on our hospitals through charity care, and must seek a cheaper, better way to administer health care in this State. Our emergency rooms should be focused on emergency care, and through this measure, we will hopefully be able to direct individuals with non-emergency concerns to a more appropriate health care setting.”

The bill now moves to the full Senate for consideration.