BCBSM and St. John Providence Health System Partner to Help the Uninsured

Leaders from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and St. John Providence Health System got together recently to celebrate a new partnership to help the growing number of uninsured in southern Oakland County and the northwest border of Detroit. The Blues awarded a two-year $300,000 grant to St. John for its St. Vincent de Paul Health Center.

The Center is located in Southfield and serves uninsured adults who have incomes at 200 percent or below federal poverty levels.

“It’s more than just the money,” said Patricia Maryland, president and CEO of St. John Providence Health System. “This partnership with Blue Cross also helps us provide the human capacity to make a difference. We understand how many individuals suffer on a daily basis because they are not able to get access to the type of care they need.”

The Health Center patients are treated by the hospital’s volunteer doctors as part of the Physicians Who Care project. Patients are also eligible for free or discounted medications through the hospital’s outpatient pharmacy.

Dr. Michael Kobernick, medical director at the St. Vincent de Paul Health Center, says that means patients with chronic diseases and nowhere else to go are able to get the care they need.

“By offering uninsured people access to health services through the St. Vincent de Paul Health Center, we’re helping to prevent expensive trips to the emergency room by managing chronic diseases such as asthma and diabetes, and providing an alternative source for acute care needs,” said Sue Barkell, the Blues vice president of Health Care Value. “This partnership between our organizations is really how we’re going to make a difference.”

The grant money will help St. Vincent de Paul Health Center do the following:

  • Increase capacity for primary care and specialty care
  • Reconfigure location to double the number of exam rooms (from two rooms to four)
  • Increase the number of patients enrolled
  • Increase focus on chronic disease management as measured by improved HEDIS scores for patients with diabetes
  • Explore implementation of electronic medical records to improve the quality and efficiency of care
  • Explore the usage of Telemedicine for specialty care visits
  • Help patients find transportation to offsite specialists

BCBSM also supports the safety net by providing $1 million in grants to free clinics throughout Michigan.

How Big Is the Impact of Health Care Reform on Free Clinics and Other ‘Safety Net’ Providers for Michigan’s Uninsured?

Much of the talk about health care reform has centered on how it will affect Medicare, individuals or private businesses. But how will it affect the organizations that provide care to those who are uninsured or underinsured?

Leaders from free clinics, federally qualified health centers, and FQHC look-alikes gathered for the first time to talk about caring for the uninsured and underinsured at the Healthy Safety Net: A Blues Symposium May 5 in Lansing, Michigan. The Blues hosted this interactive symposium to give safety net providers a chance to talk about the impact of health care reform on Michigan’s efforts to provide health care for everyone.

The symposium provided a forum for administrators, board members and medical directors from the clinics and health centers to discuss the changing health care landscape and share what that may mean to their respective organizations.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will provide coverage to many of the state’s uninsured by 2014, but there will still be an estimated 6 to 9 percent of Michigan’s population without health insurance.

So what happens next? The role of these safety net providers will likely change, but the commitment to making sure everyone who needs health care gets it has not.

“Strategic partnerships are the key to survival and success,” said Dave Law, executive director of the Joy-Southfield Community Development Corporation. “And the most important partner in all of this is the patient. We need to fully understand their needs and the challenges facing them. Then we can build those key relationships and partnerships that provide overall health benefits to the underserved residents of our communities.”

Since 2005, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan has granted more than $6 million to Michigan’s free clinics to secure health and dental care for thousands of uninsured and underinsured patients.

Click here to view a previously recorded live broadcast from the Health Safety Net: A Blues Symposium