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Buono-Vitale Bill To Establish Medical Home Project In NJ Approved In Budget Committee

Measure Would Improve Quality of Care, Lower Costs

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 unanimously approved by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee today.

“We need to explore ways to make our health care system more cost-effective and better able to meet the needs of health care consumers,” said Senator Buono, D-Middlesex, and a member of the Senate Budget Committee. “By creating a medical home demonstration project within New Jersey’s Medicaid program, we can enhance health care services while reducing the cost to the taxpayers of the Garden State.”

“Basic healthcare is a fundamental right for all people, not a privilege reserved for the ultra-rich and those lucky enough to have private health insurance,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex, and Vice Chairman of the Senate Health Committee. “Through this bill, we can make New Jersey a laboratory for better health care practices. By shifting to a patient-centric health care model which puts a premium on wellness and disease prevention, we can lower health care costs system-wide and improve outcomes for individuals within the system.”

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 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.

“At a time when our State Budget is in crisis and our investment in health care is stretched to the limit, all cost savings must be thoroughly reviewed,” said Senator Buono. “The medical home model of care represents a new way of thinking in health care, and could potentially lead to major cost savings as well as a paradigm shift in how we administer health care in this country. By adapting our system to a more cost-effective model, we can free up health care dollars to bring high quality care to more people.”

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.

“With national health care reform finally a reality, we cannot simply accept that more people will have access to decent health care than in the history of our nation,” said Senator Vitale. “We have to continue to work to improve the quality and cost-effectiveness of that care for the American public. By promoting the medical home care model and other reforms and efficiencies in conjunction with the federal reforms put into law earlier this year, we can finally realize the promise of a universal health care system that could be the envy of the entire world.”

The bill now heads to the full Senate for review, before going to the Assembly for consideration. It was unanimously approved by the Senate Health Committee in February.

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