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New Medicaid program aims to cut costs, improve care

New York state's attack on ballooning Medicaid costs has started with a program that offers coordinated care for certain Medicaid patients.  State Medicaid Director Jason Helgerson says the program called Health Homes, is aimed at the people who have the most complex Medicaid charts.

"The individuals who are in and out of the emergency rooms 50 times every year. The individuals who are constantly in and out of inpatient stays.  Those are the patients that drive most of our costs," said Helgerson. "And if we can find a way to better integrate care for these individuals, we can save a lot of money and improve the quality of their lives."

The idea is to coordinate care for those Medicaid patients.

"It's not a physical plant, a home in the physical sense of the word, but rather what it is, is a network of providers, who really serve as a home for patients in the sense that they are working together as a team to provide coordinated, integrated care," he said.

Helgerson says the program is being rolled out gradually, with about 12,000 individuals already enrolled in the metropolitan New York area.  

New York is one of many states that is launching this program as a way to try to improve care and cut costs. New York spends more money on Medicaid than any other state. Last year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo persuaded health care providers to live within strict new Medicaid spending limits and to accept a redesign of Medicaid that included programs like Health Homes.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.