By Special to The Sun
Tuesday, February 14, 2012 at 2:31 pm
When I started practicing medicine in Bardstown almost 35 years ago, I was optimistic about my opportunity to make sick children well and to watch healthy children grow into strong adults.
Even though I started out with a slightly naïve view, I’m very proud to say I’ve had a hand in caring for thousands of Kentucky’s children. I made a commitment to serve Medicaid patients at the very beginning of my career, but I was not enthusiastic when managed care arrived in 1997.
Both my staff and the staff at Passport Health Plan will attest to my reservations during the start up. On one hand, I was right to be cautious; there were administrative and technology issues that created burdens on my practice.
On the other hand, Passport worked hard to fix what wasn’t working so doctors could focus on providing patient care. But, the gap between where we were with Medicaid managed care then and where we are now is enormous. Several recent articles point out that the state’s attempt to save money by introducing three other Medicaid managed care plans outside the Passport region isn’t going well. Maybe it was too much too soon.
My practice, Physicians to Children and Adolescents, serves over 4,700 patients on Medicaid. Because of our locations in Bardstown and Springfield, some are covered by Passport, some by the other plans.
I’m not a managed care expert, but my staff and I see and experience the differences daily.
I suspect part of the difference is that Passport is a nonprofit and therefore never has to put the expectations of shareholders before the needs of members.
I’ve been impressed enough with Passport’s commitment to the Commonwealth to accept an offer to join their Board of directors. From this vantage point, I’ve been able to confirm what I have long suspected: Passport Health Plan has a strong and engaged provider network, and an intense focus on delivering services at a cost that doesn’t diminish quality. In fact, engaging with providers is one of the hallmarks of Passport’s remarkable success.
I feel that Passport’s effectiveness, including their impressive clinical outcomes, are directly due to physicians and other health professionals (from throughout the service area) sitting at the table making key decisions and sharing sacrifices for the good of the plan and the members.
The National Committee on Quality Assurance recently ranked Passport as the 13th best Medicaid plan in America, which could not have been accomplished without an invested provider network and a top-notch staff. As a member of the board of directors, I want to say Passport stands willing and ready to help the state get Medicaid back on track.
In addition to Jefferson, the plan has been successfully serving 15 rural counties for 14 years and respects and understands their unique needs. Claims are paid on time, and members have access to the doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and specialists.
Passport is a strong and cost effective Medicaid plan that could be easily replicated throughout the Commonwealth.
Dr. James Hedrick, MD, practices pediatrics in Bardstown and received his medical degree from the University of Chicago, Pritzker School of Medicine in Chicago, Ill.
To view this article by Dr. James Hedrick, MD for The Springfield Sun please visit http://www.thespringfieldsun.com/content/physician-praises-passport