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CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield Announces More than $8.5 Million in Grants to 12 Safety Net Health Center Programs in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Funding to Improve Treatment and Care Coordination for 66,000 of Region’s Most Vulnerable Patients

Washington, DC (February 28, 2012) - CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield today announced that it will give more than $8.5 million over three years in funding to help 12 safety net health center programs in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC, implement medical home and care coordination programs for the region’s most vulnerable population, the chronically ill. In all, the funded programs are expected to provide services to as many as 66,000 individuals at more than 20 locations throughout the region.

CareFirst’s Safety Net Health Center Patient-Centered Medical Home Initiative is among the largest of its type ever by a private insurer to support safety net health centers – as well as the company’s largest focused funding effort ever. The 12 programs will serve low-income, medically underserved communities – addressing chronic illnesses such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and high-blood pressure, as well as a wide spectrum of medical issues including primary adult care and pediatric health, specialized care with HIV-targeted case management, and specialized services for homeless, minority, and uninsured populations.

Arlington Free Clinic; Baltimore Medical System; Calvert Healthcare Solutions; Chase Brexton Health Services; Choptank Community Health System; Community Clinic, Inc. and partner Greater Baden Medical Services; Health Care for the Homeless; Mary’s Center; Primary Care Coalition of Montgomery County and partners Mobile Medical Care, Inc. and Holy Cross Hospital Health Center; Spanish Catholic Center; Total Health Care and partners Family Health Centers of Baltimore and Park West Health System, Inc; and Unity Health Care.

In providing the grants, CareFirst seeks to leverage the lessons it has learned about better coordinated care from its Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) program. In 2011, CareFirst launched its innovative, network-wide PCMH program focused on the chronically ill. The program fosters collaboration between physicians, nurses, specialists and other health professionals to deliver better coordinated care to improve patient outcomes, while ultimately bending the rising cost curve. Today, more than 3,100 primary care providers across Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. participate in the program, believed to be the largest of its kind in the nation.

"In spite of their limited resources, safety net health centers play a critical role in the communities we serve, and their importance will continue to grow under federal health care reform,” said Chet Burrell, President and CEO of CareFirst. “Through this grant program, we will provide support and guidance to help the health centers enhance their ability to treat patients with costly chronic illnesses and provide better coordinated, more comprehensive care."

Vince Keane, President & CEO Unity Health Care said, “We are grateful to CareFirst for its commitment to the community and its leadership in helping safety net health centers apply the medical home model. Given the vulnerable populations that safety net health centers serve, they are ripe with opportunity to achieve better patient outcomes through more effective care coordination.”

In addition to providing financial support for the programs, CareFirst is also making available key supports of its commercial PCMH program, including web-based tools to facilitate care coordination and other information technology and nursing support resources.

The 228 safety net health centers in Maryland, Northern Virginia and the District of Columbia – including 168 Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) – represent the backbone of the “safety net” health care system for the uninsured, Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries, the homeless, the poor, immigrant and minority populations. In 2010, these centers provided care to more than 626,000 patients in the region, regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay.

Nationwide, safety net health centers – where a disproportionately high number of patients with chronic illnesses seek care – are estimated to save $24 billion annually, by reducing the costs of emergency visits, hospital stays and specialty care.

“Even though safety net health centers already save our health care system billions annually,” said Burrell, “we have an opportunity to make them even more effective and efficient through better coordinated care.”

Today’s announcement came as part of an event at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, which convened a panel of experts for a discussion on the challenges and opportunities of care coordination in the safety net health center setting. How the patient-centered model can provide a solution to better patient outcomes while reining in skyrocketing medical costs was central to this discussion. The panel included representatives from the Center for American Progress, the Urban Institute, the National Association of Community Health Centers and a beneficiary of CareFirst’s initiative who exchanged views on the potential role of the PCMH in safety net health care centers, the importance of supporting these centers and how innovative care models like the PCMH can revitalize the nation’s health care system.

In its 75th year of service, CareFirst, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, is a not-for-profit health care company which, through its affiliates and subsidiaries, offers a comprehensive portfolio of health insurance products and administrative services to 3.4 million individuals and groups in Maryland, the District of Columbia and Northern Virginia.  In 2011, CareFirst contributed $51 million to community programs designed to increase the accessibility, affordability, safety and quality of health care throughout its market areas. To learn more about CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, visit our Web site at www.carefirst.com or follow us on Twitter: http://twitter.com/CareFirst_News.