Work continues on model for multi-county health care collaborative in west central Minnesota
WILLMAR, Jan 16, 2013 (West Central Tribune - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
After seven years in the planning stage, a 12-county health care collaborative that would utilize its own group insurance plan and tailor early health care intervention and prevention for the Medicaid population may be on the verge of getting state approval and funding.
"The timing couldn't be better," said Kandiyohi County Board Chairman Harlan Madsen. "Sometimes the stars line up."
Known as Southern Prairie Community Care, this model for the unique collaborative is being created to create a local care coordination network for the "vulnerable people living in our communities," said Mary Fischer, executive director of the collaborative during an up-date Tuesday to the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners.
Currently, those services are provided by health management or-ganizations.
The new model would allow local health care providers dealing with a client's medical care to work seamlessly with county caseworkers who may be overseeing the client's affordable housing needs or mental health care services.
The model is believed to create a system that can respond to local needs of clients outside the cookie-cutter HMO model.
Organizers also believe they can coordinate those services and provide better care for less money than what's currently being spent for Medicaid patients.
Medicaid is the joint federal-state health insurance program for the poor and disabled.
In Minnesota, the state Department of Human Services oversees the program, and eligibility is administered by the counties and by the state.
Sharing of real-time information with the different providers through electronic records will help make the process smooth and give care providers the tools to make the right decisions for patients, said Fischer.
Fischer said she expects to hear from the state yet this winter on whether grants have been approved for the collaborative, which would allow implementation by January of 2014.
"This is very exciting," said Madsen, adding that action taken today to develop the collaborative "sets a positive tone for decades to come."
The collaborative currently includes Kandiyohi, Swift, Chippewa, Redwood, Pipestone, Murray, Rock, Nobles, Cottonwood, Yellow Medicine, Lincoln and Lyon counties.
Because these southwest Minnesota counties have worked together on other cooperative projects, Fischer said there is a level of trust and accountability between county organizers.
Another factor that makes the organizational structure strong, she said, is that it was built from the ground up and not driven by administrators.
The local voice is very strong in the process and that will drive delivery of the best practices, she added.
In August, Minnesota was the first state to get a federal waiver that clears the way for agencies such as Southern Prairie, rather than only HMOs, to coordinate these types of services, said Fischer.
She said past grants have favored urban community care programs for the demonstration sites and therefore she believes the opportunity is ripe for a rural program like Southern Prairie to receive funding.
Madsen stressed that Southern Prairie is not the result of the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, and it does not mirror that program.
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