KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Local Programs For Medical Homes, Free Care May Offer Blueprint For Larger Changes

News outlets explore the increasingly popular concept of "medical homes" -- a coordinated system that emphasizes primary care, prevention and wellness -- and another program that provides free care to those in need.

The (Henderson, N.C.) Times-News reports that even though the "national political landscape and plunging public support has dimmed the prospects for a major health care overhaul," a clinic in Flat Rock, N.C., "offers important clues about reform that expands access to working families and other uninsured people." The clinic "emphasizes primary care, prevention and health self-management. … The patients' role in reporting on their medical condition and progress - whether through blood pressure readings, glucose tests or how their sprained ankle is healing - is a key to the patient-centered medical home concept" (Moss, 2/1).

In the meantime, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas is busy setting up its own "medical home" program in five counties in north Texas to "better emphasize wellness and manage diseases," The Dallas Morning News reports. Cigna HealthCare also runs a medical home program with the Medical Clinic of North Texas that serves 10,000 patients. "Although insurers are just embracing the medical home concept, hospitals and physicians long have pushed for medical homes. Children's Medical Center in Dallas invested $2 million to start Physicians for Children as a nonprofit medical-home clinic system in August 2000" (Roberson, 2/2).

The Athens (Ga.) Banner-Herald reports that the Mercy Health Center clinic in Athens, Ga., offers free clinic care to people without insurance "operating exclusively on donations, grants and help from volunteers. And with the ongoing national health care debate and continued layoffs in the workforce circulating through the news cycle each day, free health care - with no government involvement - is huge." But the lines are long, with more than 5,000 treated at the clinic last year alone "and hundreds are turned away each week; there isn't space to help everyone" (Phillips, 2/2).

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