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Local health care initiatives, issues presented at summit

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013, at 10:58 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013, at 10:58 p.m.

Members of the Wichita Business Coalition on Health Care presented their latest initiatives to improve health care quality and reduce costs at the second annual Innovation Summit on Wednesday at Abode Venue, 1330 E. Douglas.

“We’ve found that many of our members were out there trying different things, but there really was no forum for sharing the results,” said Janet Hamous, executive director of the coalition. “This gives the members the opportunity to share on a brief basis what’s going on, what their successes have been, what their failures have been.”

The coalition has more than 50 member organizations, but Wednesday’s event was open to others as well. Coalition members include area employers, health care providers, insurance companies and individuals who focus on health care costs, quality and access.

Hamous said one of the benefits to the coalition is that it creates an opportunity for area health care providers and employers to partner in new ventures.

Wellness program models were among the subjects discussed by Shanda Barnes, director of internal audit with Meritrust Credit Union, and Mary Singleton, registered nurse and senior and business relations director for Wesley Medical Center.

Jonathan Rivers of the Kansas Health Foundation spoke about the foundation’s healthy food policies initiative, including a decision that the foundation would purchase and supply food for its employees and at events only if the food met certain health standards.

Lindsey Hogg, ambulatory care clinical pharmacist, and Jim Garrelts, director of pharmacy for Via Christi Health, talked about Via Christi’s initiative to improve care and reduce costs through medication therapy management. The program would make pharmacists more involved in patient care and allow them to educate patients about the medications they take.

Part of the day was also devoted to the discussion of the Affordable Care Act and other changes in health care.

“There are so many people interested in what is happening with that, and I think many orgs took a wait-and-see attitude; now we have to implement many of the parts of this, and people feel like they need information fast,” Hamous said.

Karen Vines, vice president for employee benefits, governance and compliance at IMA Inc., a retail insurance broker, spoke with Jason Lacey, an attorney with Foulston Siefkin, about how the health care law has become a catalyst for organizational change.

“Beyond the mechanisms, you need to understand the fundamentals of what 2014 means (for the industry),” Vines said. “Health care reform gives us a great opportunity to step back and view some things differently.”

Vines and Lacey talked about how the Affordable Care Act will affect employers as they decide whether to offer insurance or pay a penalty – a mandate that applies to most businesses that employ 50 or more full-time-equivalent employees.

In the end, Vines said, paying the penalty could be more costly to employers.

Employers also need to be nimble in the current environment, Vines said, especially because many of the final rules of the Affordable Care Act have yet to be released by the federal government.

Wesley Medical Center CEO Hugh Tappan gave the summit’s opening remarks, and he urged attendees to contact state legislators to urge them to vote against a bill that would stop the expansion of Medicaid in the state.

Tappan also said that Wesley expects administrative costs to increase as a result of KanCare, the state’s new privatized Medicaid program that gives administrative oversight to three managed care organizations: Amerigroup, Sunflower and UnitedHealthcare.

Reach Kelsey Ryan at 316-269-6752 or kryan@wichitaeagle.com.

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