Area health-care initiative earns federal endorsement and dollars

WARRENSBURG - The federal government has now committed its support and money to a North Country health-care initiative that is intended to make medical services more efficient, effective and responsive to patients' needs.

The Adirondack Medical Home Pilot program, developed and implemented this year by a group of health care chains that includes Hudson Headwaters Health Network, is one of eight nationwide to be included in a demonstration project from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services within the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

The Adirondack Pilot program is a model of health care that emphasizes primary care and enhances coordination with medical specialists. Health-care officials say it is an innovative approach to improve the quality of health care and hold down costs.

Most primary care health care providers in the Adirondack Region are participating, including all 13 of Hudson Headwaters' health centers. Key organizers have been Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake, CVPH in Plattsburgh, as well as Hudson Headwaters.

Hudson Headwaters CEO Dr. John Rugge hailed the announcement of new federal government support.

"We are elated," Rugge said Friday. "In effect, with seven others across the nation, we have won the competition to redesign primary care to make our services as effective as possible. This selection by Medicare represents a huge source of support and vote of confidence in us."

Until now, seven payers including Medicaid, the Empire Plan for state employees and the five leading private insurers, have been participating in the Pilot. These payers provide additional reimbursement to primary care doctors in return for new, expanded services including same-day appointments, health education and enhanced coordination of care.

The announcement from Washington means that Medicare will join the Pilot to support the additional payments and new services for seniors.

"Our success with the Pilot program builds on years and years of dedicated local support to obtain this kind of matching effort from Washington," said Dr. William O'Dwyer, chairman of the board of Hudson Headwaters. "Now we are national leaders in primary care for sure."

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