Georgia Considers Three Programs As Models to Help Serve the Uninsured
Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes (D) and state Department of Community Health Commissioner Russ Toal are considering a number of reforms to provide care for Georgia's 1.3 million uninsured residents, looking at programs established in communities around that state as possible solutions, the Augusta Chronicle reports. One such program is the Emanuel, Ga.-based Access Emanuel, which provides the chronically ill with case managers who help monitor and manage disease to prevent costly emergency room visits and hospital stays. Modeled after a similar program in Buncombe County, N.C., the program "grew out of five years of talks among doctors, social service agencies, community groups, public health, pharmacists and Emanuel Medical Center." Access Emanuel employs two state-paid staff members who screen patients to determine whether they qualify for government programs like Medicaid and to verify income. The program also serves as a "one-stop shop" by coordinating with other social services agencies such as the state Department of Family and Children Services. Access Emanuel Program Director Rebecca Riner said that "key grants" from the federal Human Resources and Services Administration and the Georgia State Medical Education Board helped launch the program. A second program, MedBank, is a Savannah, Ga.-based volunteer organization that employs the "ingenious strategy of helping patients, particularly low-income people on Medicare, take advantage of drug company access programs," the Augusta Chronicle reports. MedBank Executive Director Holly Smith said that many drug manufacturers provide free drugs, but issue complicated application forms that physicians don't have time to fill out. Fifty volunteers at MedBank specialize in filling out these forms, and accept physician referrals to the programs for patients who cannot afford long term drug therapy. Smith said MedBank was able to provide about $3.9 million in drugs last year and helped save care providers and patients about $3.8 million "by helping people avoid getting sick and showing up at the emergency room." Helping the Homeless Another Savannah program, called the J.C. Lewis Health Center, provides primary care to the homeless. The result of a cooperation between two competing area hospitals, the program now serves 77% of Savannah's homeless, reducing unnecessary hospitalizations by 1,181 days and preventing 968 trips to the emergency room. According to Rev. Michael Elliot, president of Union Mission, which runs the program, the center not only helps "close one of the gaps in health care that plague the uninsured," but also reduces "the strain of people who become homeless because of heath care." Smith added that Savannah is "probably in the same place that Augusta is in, in that we are wrestling with a rather large uninsured population. And my effort is just one of the many pieces that need to be put into place to meet those needs" (Corwin, Augusta Chronicle, 10/28).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.