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Safety net integration: a shared strategy for becoming providers of choice.

  • Author(s): Murphy, Julia
  • Ko, Michelle
  • Kizer, Kenneth W
  • Bindman, Andrew B
  • et al.
Abstract

With the expansion of coverage as a result of federal health care reform, safety net providers are confronting a challenge to care for the underserved while also competing as a provider of choice for the newly insured. Safety net institutions may be able to achieve these goals by pursuing greater delivery system integration. We interviewed safety net hospital and community health center (CHCs) leaders in five US cities to determine what strategies these organizations are employing to promote care integration in the safety net. Although there is some experimentation with payment reform and health information exchange, safety net providers identify significant policy and structural barriers to integrating service delivery. The enhanced Medicaid payments for CHCs and the federal requirement that CHCs retain independent boards discourage these organizations from integrating with other safety net providers. Current policies are not mobilizing safety net providers to pursue integration as a way to deliver more efficient and effective care. Medicaid and other policies at the federal and state level could be revised to overcome known fragmentation in the health care safety net. This includes addressing the conflicts in financing and governance arrangements that are encouraging providers to resist integration to preserve their independence.

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