KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Reform Law Gives Major Boost To Community Health Centers, Medical Homes

The Washington Post: "The health-care legislation signed into law in March provides a major boost to community health centers: $11 billion over five years. The first of these federally supported primary-care clinics opened in 1965." The law also provides funding designed to increase the supply of primary-care providers. And, "[o]n Wednesday, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius announced that the federal government will spend $250 million in programs to increase the number of doctors, nurses and other care providers. The programs come under the jurisdiction of HRSA." The Post has a Q&A with Mary K. Wakefield, 55, the administrator of the Department of Health and Human Services' Health Resources and Services Administration, which is the agency which oversees community health centers. "Wakefield, a nurse who is a leading expert in rural health care, was appointed to the position in February 2009, and notes: 'We expect this investment will approximately double the number of people seen in health centers. It will enable us to serve about 20 million patients over five years'" (6/21).

American Medical News: "Moving to a patient-centered medical home model of care can present significant challenges for physician practices, but given the necessary resources and guidance, some early adopters have found that the move can be worth the effort. That's according to a new report commissioned by the American Academy of Family Physicians and its for-profit subsidiary, TransforMED." Based on the experiences of some of participants in a two-year national demonstration project, positive results were achieved in quality of care, chronic disease care and prevention outcomes. The report on the project will be published in a special supplement to the May/June 2010 Annals of Family Medicine. "But those quality gains were modest, and the project created no positive movement on patients' ratings of their own care, researchers found. The project also revealed that successful transformation to a patient-centered medical home 'requires a great deal of effort, motivation and support.'" That includes developing care coordination teams, substantial cross-training efforts and additional financial and human resources (Silva, 6/21).

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: "In the past year, the Squirrel Hill Health Center has become more technology-savvy. … The center is one of 10 in the Pittsburgh area involved in a program to improve patient care, appointment scheduling and access to doctors. The centers, which care for patients regardless of whether they have insurance, are aiming for recognition as Patient-Centered Medical Homes, or facilities that provide ongoing care from a team of physicians. The improvement program is run by the Commonwealth Fund, a New York City nonprofit that researches health issues. Becoming a medical home could allow health centers to earn higher rates of reimbursements from insurance companies, said Karen Feinstein, president of the Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative and director of the Jewish Healthcare Foundation of Pittsburgh" (Wilson, 6/21).

The (Maryland) Daily Record: "The state will reach out to primary care physician practices in a series of informational meetings beginning Tuesday in Baltimore to highlight a pilot program meant to boost the quality of care and lower costs. The purpose of the Patient Centered Medical Home pilot, approved by the legislature in April, is to test a different way of practicing health care over three years that will offer improved coordination of care and better access to a medical team. Maryland hopes the result will cut costs through fewer hospitalizations and visits to the emergency room, along with a reduction in unneeded services. … The model shifts patient care away from a system of short, episodic visits where physicians are paid by patient volume" (Ulman, 6/20). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.