MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

August 18, 2013

State to test program to reduce employee health costs

It will start next year for 15,000 families


Associated Press

— OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A $3.8 million pilot program is to start on Jan. 1 to see whether it can lower health care costs for 15,000 Oklahoma state employees and their families.

The program by MedEncentive was authorized in the 2011 legislative session and will be open to some workers taking part in the HealthChoice program. If the MedEncentive test can bring down costs, its methods could be spread to all 125,000 state employees who use the HealthChoice plan.

“If it at least stagnates the cost, Oklahoma will be a big winner,” said state Sen. Josh Brecheen, R-Atoka, a sponsor of the bill that enabled the study.  “Those dollars are needed to go into classes, bridges and prisons.”

Washington state obstetrician-gynecologist Jenny Vickrey said she’s been using the program with her patients and the people she treats have a better grasp of their conditions and are more prone to follow instructions to help them recover or stay well.

The Oklahoma Internet-based wellness product by MedEncentive gives patients information about their health and tests them on it, she said.

Patients using MedEncentive get a portion of their co-payments waived. Physicians, who are rated by patients based on their adherence to recommended care, are paid an extra $15 per office visit.

“I don’t know if it’s because I’m asking them to, or for a little more cash,” Vickrey said. “Whichever, I see it as a tool that’s been a blessing for me and my patients.”

Company founder and CEO Jeff Greene told The Oklahoman that the program uses payer-sponsored financial incentives to reward doctors and patients for adhering to evidence-based care and healthy behaviors. Doctors can still deviate from recommended care.

“Unlike any other solution, this process of doctor-patient mutual accountability triangulates the interest of the payer, consumer and provider,” Greene said.

“Most importantly, patients get well, and stay out of the hospital, while doctors practice better medicine.”

MedEncentive has about 7,000 patients participating in the program from the city of Yukon to New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Washington, said Jim Dempster, the company’s national director of business development.

State Rep. Doug Cox, R-Grove, who is an emergency room physician, said he supports the program because it can improve patient care while helping balance the state budget.

“If we can standardize care for patients, especially those with common illnesses, and get them the right treatment early, we can prevent many ER visits and hospital readmissions, which will save patients money and insurance companies’ money,” Cox said.

The 2011 bill passed with significant bipartisan support, with a unanimous vote in the Senate and only nine dissenting votes in the House.