New Healthcare Option for State Workers Expands Patient-Centered Care

Source: NJ Spotlight Health
Paladina Health, a for-profit company that is a national leader in patient-centered care, opened its first Garden State facility in June as part of the state’s direct primary-care program. The Hamilton office is open to many state workers and public school employees — and family members of all ages — and treatment is paid for through their existing health insurance policies, with no out-of-pocket charge to patients.
Because Paladina primary-care physicians treat 70 percent fewer patients than doctors on average, they are able to spend far more time with each individual, be more accessible between appointments, and serve as coordinators for all medical treatments. This model has been shown to reduce patient hospitalizations, surgeries, and specialist visits while holding down the overall cost of care.
Paladina, now at work in 11 states, plans to open another location this fall in North Jersey. The company joins the R-Health Direct Primary Care Program, which operates clinics in Burlington, Camden, and Mercer counties that also serve the Garden State’s public workers through the same initiative. In both practices, physicians are paid a salary to care for a set amount of patients, not reimbursed based on the type or quantity of treatments they provide.
Cutting healthcare costs
The direct-care program is one of several reforms outlined in 2015 to reduce costs for the State Health Benefits Plan, which insures state workers, and plans that cover teachers, county, and municipal workers — all funded largely by taxpayers.
The facility’s opening was also welcomed by leaders from the Communications Workers of America, American Federation of Teachers, and New Jersey Education Association — powerful unions that played a key role in the state Senate’s Plan Design Committee, which hashed out the details of the reforms.
Paladina’s Hamilton facility can provide primary and preventative care, including pediatrics, as well as urgent care treatments and coordination with external specialists and hospitals, the company said; it also offers fitness and nutrition coaching. Because it’s primary-care doctors see fewer patients, wait times are generally four minutes, appointments can last 30 minutes to 45 minutes, and physicians are accessible 24/7 by telephone.

Unlike at most facilities, patients at Paladina pay no co-pay or other additional charges, beyond their normal plan premium. A

“This launch marks an important, exciting step forward as we work to show New Jersey families just how great primary care can be,” said Dr. Pearl Guerzon, the first Paladina physician in New Jersey. “I consider it a privilege to be a family physician. Caring for kids, their parents, and grandparents allows meaningful, trusting relationships to form with all my patients.”
Joining Paladina — or R-Health — does not require a change of insurance policy, but may require patients to designate a new primary-care provider.

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