Letter: Suggestions for HealthAlliance

Suggestions for HealthAlliance

It’s been painful watching the HealthAlliance consolidation story unfold. Fingers are pointing, jobs are at stake, state dollars wasted and mistrust everywhere. And still no long-term community health care master plan for the future.

While the HealthAlliance partnership remains the logical entity to lead countywide planning efforts, one begins to wonder if the weight is too great or the resources lacking. Perhaps it’s time for a grass-roots effort to take planning into our own hands. Ulster County does have a history of health care and human service boldness (first 24-hour emergency hotline; early leader in the family practice movement; first HMO in the Hudson Valley and first to enroll Medicaid recipients — now mandatory enrollment in New York State; first facility for domestic violence victims in New York State; early leader in breast cancer treatment).

Isn’t it time for Ulster County to be bold again?

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Here’s some suggestions for our HealthAlliance leaders:

* Don’t become passive with health reform. Become part of a regional Accountable Care Organization (ACOs) network. Global and risk-based Medicare revenue programs can help balance our unfair fee-for-service MSA rates. Also, partner with our primary care physicians to increase utilization of prevention services (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) and help form a county-wide Patient Centered Medical Home (performance-based mini-health systems).
* Partner with our business community to be prepared for Regional Health Exchanges and cost containment activities. Communicate to our regional health insurance companies what help our community needs to expand public health initiatives, to bring in new primary care physicians and to demonstrate health-care performance outcomes.

* Carefully evaluate the success of rural health care leaders Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania and Imogene-Bassett Health System inCooperstown. Yes, they have become mature systems, but they are on the track that we need to be on. Let’s not re-invent the wheel.

* Don’t underestimate our strong community’s understanding and support for integrative health care and natural healing modalities.

* Help plan model 60-and-over communities with medical services, residential housing, communal dining, community garden and training/educational resource center for mentoring (inter-generational living).

* Apply for grant assistance or join a national/regional alliance to study promising growth fields like cellular medicine, longevity and the treatment of opioid-dependent individuals.

Health reform is now a reality. Reimbursement pressures will continue. Our need for less inpatient and more outpatient/wellness/preventive services has been trending for decades.

As a community, we can either sit back and hope that the streamlined HealthAlliance team will successfully direct our health care future or we can get active, start the creative juices and help the HealthAlliance team plan a health care system that matches our achievement in artistic and cultural endeavors.

Ed Ullmann, Mount Tremper

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