State to offer more help to chronically ill

February 13, 2008 1:45:44 PM PST
Pennsylvanians who suffer from diabetes, asthma and other chronic health woes would get more help managing their illnesses under a plan Gov. Ed Rendell released Wednesday. It calls for educating patients about ways to improve their health, coordinating their care through teams of primary care doctors and other health care professionals, and changing the way insurers reimburse health care providers for treatment.

Patients with chronic illnesses often receive inadequate preventive care, partly because their primary care physicians are pressed for time, said Ann Torregrossa of the Governor's Office of Health Care Reform.

"Clinicians really are forced to see patients very quickly, and I think it frustrates them and it frustrates the patients," Torregrossa said. "If you have chronic conditions, you have a lot of related (health care) problems."

In Pennsylvania last year, treatment for chronic illnesses amounted to more than $4 billion in hospital charges that could have been avoided if patients had received regular primary care, according to the administration's estimate.

The plan, which was developed by a commission appointed by Rendell last year, will focus initially on treating adults with diabetes and children with asthma. It will be introduced gradually in various regions of the state this year, starting with the Philadelphia metropolitan area in May.

The plan would be discontinued if it does not improve the quality of health care and reduce either the total cost or the rate of cost increases within three years, Torregrossa said.