New Report Shows Success In Controlling Spiraling Health Care Costs

February 06, 2014

By: Bob Kinzel

The Vermont Blueprint for Health is a public-private statewide program that’s designed to transform the delivery of health care. Now there’s solid evidence to demonstrate that the program can help reduce overall health care costs.

The Blueprint program encourages primary care providers to create community health teams to develop a comprehensive treatment approach for individual patients. It also creates a system where the physicians and their teams can be reimbursed for providing services to patients with chronic illnesses to help them better manage their condition.

Vermont has roughly 160 primary care practices and three years ago, 21 of them participated in this program. By the end of 2012, 89 were on board, and by the end of last year the number had grown to 121.

Craig Jones is the executive director of Vermont Blueprint for Health. He said he now has enough data from 2012 to show that these programs can reduce health care costs by more than 10 percent, adding up to millions of dollars a year.

"We begin to see the changes that we were hoping to see." Vermont Blueprint Director Craig Jones

“We begin to see the changes that we were hoping to see which is improved health care patterns and some reduction in health care expenditures,” said Jones. “And that is exactly what the program was hoping to see when it was first instituted.”

And Jones said another critical aspect of the program is that the community health teams often direct patients to important social services that can have a big impact on their overall health.

“That was one of the fundamental hopes that it would be more complete holistic health and human services, not just health care," Jones said. "And the finding of that in the data I think is very important.”

Rep. Michael Fisher, D-Lincoln, is the chairman of the House Health Care committee. He said the new report contains some valuable information.

“I think the important thing is that we are seeing a trend in the way practice is delivered, increases in utilization that we want to see,” said Fisher. “And it’s the first time that we’ve been able to get a full year’s picture that really demonstrates those trends.”

And Fisher said the program shows that it’s possible to provide better care to many people at a reduced cost.

“It could have a real impact on cost containment on reducing the rate of growth in health care spending," he said. "It could also have a real impact on quality in improving Vermonters’ health care and improving Vermonters’ experience in accessing health care.”

The report also shows that Medicaid patients often have much higher per capita health care costs than the general population and the Blueprint organizers hope to address this issue later this year.