TRENTON – Senate President Steve Sweeney, who proposed the creation of patient-centered health care programs five months ago along with the state’s public employee unions, today applauded the State Health Benefits Plan’s joint labor-management committee for voting to make the program a reality.
“Patient-centered health care provides better care at a lower cost,” Senator Sweeney said. “By creating primary care practices where patients have their own doctor who knows them personally and can develop individualized healthcare plans to meet their needs, we can improve healthcare outcomes and save money at the same time.”
The State Health Benefits Plan’s Joint Design Committee, which includes six administration and six union representatives, voted 9-0-3 today to approve the program.
“It took months of negotiations, but it was worth it,” Senator Sweeney said. The Senate President praised the leadership of the Communications Workers of America, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and the American Association of University Professors/American Federation of Teachers for their persistence in pushing for creation of the win-win program.
The original proposal, developed by Sweeney in consultation with America’s Agenda: Health Care For All, a nonprofit coalition of labor, business, healthcare and government officials, called for up to 60,000 public employees and their family members to be enrolled over the next three years. The SHBP pilot program was approved with no cap on participation.
“Public employees who choose to participate in the program will have 24/7 access to health care consultation, guaranteed same-day or next-day appointments for urgent care, and will pay no out-of-pocket fees or deductibles when they visit their primary care physician,” Senator Sweeney said.
Senator Sweeney said he is optimistic that the School Employees Health Benefits Plan’s Joint Design Committee will vote quickly to join the initiative, making patient-centered health care available to teachers and their families.
“Today’s vote is a great victory for taxpayers and employees because it will cut health insurance costs for state and local governments while reducing employee contributions to their health care costs both in their paychecks and at the doctor’s office,” Senator Sweeney said.
With 84 percent of national health care dollars being spent on chronic conditions such as diabetes or hypertensive blood pressure, providing patients with the individualized preventive care and attention they need can save considerably on costs: Vermont’s community-based health teams cut inpatient hospital stays by 21 percent, trips to the emergency room by 31 percent, and health care costs by 12 percent, and other programs in the private sector have averaged overall cost savings of 5 percent to 15 percent.