At Logansport Memorial Hospital, he said, physicians are transitioning to a “medical home” model, pulling a term from the 1960s to describe sharing records among a primary care physician and other medical personnel, like a dietitian or health coach, who might help a patient understand what they can do about a chronic illness or how they can prevent one.
Ameen called the act “the next step in health care,” moving insurance away from sick care and into wellness — or preventive measures, like regular exams and healthy habits.
As it is, insurance’s focus on kicking in when someone gets sick, and its limited scope — some 16 percent of Cass County residents are uninsured or underinsured, he said — mean costs for taking care of someone who’s sick and uninsured are shifted around, ultimately falling onto insured people or government aid agencies.
“We give away about $800,000 worth of care every month,” Ameen said, and tries to make up for it through seeking reimbursements wherever possible.
He expects getting more people onto fuller health insurance plans to shift people’s focus from panicking when they get sick to taking steps to keep them from getting acutely sick in the first place, he said.
Those steps come with an additional cost, admitted hospital human resources manager Lynda Murphy.
“It’s a tightrope that you walk as an employer, because it’s going to hit employees in the pocketbook one way or the other,” she said. “But it’s not all about cost. It’s the right thing to do.”
Employers who’ve begun emphasizing wellness behaviors — and instituting incentives, or discounts on insurance, to push employees to change their behaviors to match — have judged the cost worth it, she said. “They’ve seen enough studies to show that it pays for itself.”
However, not all employers are willing to cough up the extra funds to cover employees who previously weren’t eligible for company health insurance. One of the largest in the Cass County area was Ivy Tech Kokomo Region, which announced in June it was cutting the hours of some of its adjunct faculty to avoid having to provide them with health insurance.