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Governor Beebe's Weekly Column and Radio Address: Bold Steps for Better Patient Care


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This summer, Arkansas has begun putting in place our home-grown effort to transform the methods our state pays for health care. While still in its earliest phases, this new initiative will, over time, move us toward a system focused more on patient outcomes and less on individual procedures and tests. Arkansans will see less duplication of diagnostic tests and experience better interaction with providers, sometimes without having to go into the doctor's office. While we are the first state in the nation to undertake these fundamental changes to our payment system, others may soon follow, including the federal government.

In the past week, a new federal pilot program, called the Comprehensive Primary Care Initiative, was introduced in eight states, including Arkansas. Under this program, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will pay incentives to 66 primary-care medical practices in Arkansas to support enhanced, coordinated services. At the same time, private, state, and other federal insurance plans will offer their own bonuses to these same doctors.

To receive these incentives, primary-care physicians must provide increased services to their patients. These services include longer and more flexible hours and the use of electronic health records. Doctors will also be expected to coordinate care with the patients' other health-care providers to eliminate duplicate or unnecessary procedures. These doctors will also encourage their patients to become more involved in their own care. Finally, physicians or health-care professionals must also provide individualized, enhanced care for patients living with multiple chronic diseases and complex medical needs. There are about 50,000 Arkansans on federal insurance plans already being treated through these practices.

This federal program shares our state goal of achieving improved, more affordable health care. This is why we think Arkansas's Health Care Payment Improvement Initiative will make us a national leader in shaping our own health-care destiny. Both the state and federal initiatives encourage primary physicians to solve patients' medical problems as efficiently as possible. When health-care episodes are coordinated by a single provider, information already in a patient's medical records is more likely to be used before new tests and procedures are ordered.

Arkansas's initiative has the potential to slow the rise of health-care costs, temper the cost demands on our taxpayers and make Medicaid more sustainable. It is a bold undertaking in an industry already changing after the passage of the Affordable Care Act. One thing remains constant - Arkansas wants to be ahead of the curve in solving the health-care issues all states face.

As the only state in the nation taking this kind of approach, we have the chance to blaze a trail for the rest of the country to follow. Most Americans agree that we must improve the quality and accessibility of health care at lower costs. As the national debate continues about how best to accomplish that goal, Arkansas will not simply wait and see what happens next. We are working to be an example of the common-sense investments in health care that are so critically needed for our future.

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