As the Chairman of the VI’s 29th Legislature Health Committee Senator Patrick Simeon Sprauve convened a territorial Health Summit in April to initiate a frank discussion with stakeholders on where the VI is heading.
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Officials In attendance included: Lt. Governor Gregory Francis, who is in charge of Banking and Insurance; Dr. Ronald Nimmo, OB/GYN specialist; Dr. Frank Odlum, Medical Board of Licensure, Chairman; Dr. Arlene Lockridge; Dr. Debra Wright-Francis; Iris Bermudez from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS); and participating via a pre-taped interview,Delegate to Congress Donna M. Christensen. The information shared was meaningful and timely.
As an example of systemic challenges, physicians shared some of their personal experiences with low-income patients. Their comments shed significant light on the plight of those who have no health insurance coverage.
For example, two physicians revealed they have participated in “life saving, donated medical interventions” provided through a collaboration between physicians and the local hospital. In several cases, care had to be donated because the patient encountered administrative challenges while trying to access the local Medicaid program.
The administrative challenges, while eventually resolvable, would have cost the patient critical intervention time to address. Because the physicians felt it was not in the patient’s best interest to wait before rendering care, the doctors arranged with hospital officials for the care to be donated.
In sharing their experiences, health summit attendees learned two very valuable lessons. First, the potential exists where patients with no health insurance may have to wait for administrative action before they can receive necessary care.
And, second, in those cases where doctors donate the care rather than wait, the Medicaid program receives no data on the case. Instead, this information falls between the system’s cracks and never gets counted toward “in-kind services” provided to the needy. The loss of this kind of legitimate data skews reports and fails to accurately document the Virgin Islands present and future Medicaid needs.
Unfortunately, Heath Department officials did not attend due to budgetary constraints, according to Acting Commissioner Fern Clarke. The Health Department’s participation in this vital public discussion was critical and their inability to be present deprived attendees of important information about the Department’s plans for improving health care for Virgin Islanders.
As the territory prepares to upgrade its health delivery system and implement the Affordable Care Act (ACA) it is hoped that the Health Department will become a major participant in public discussions. The Health Department’s active participation in these discussions will help to breaking down silos of information that must be shared if the new system is to be effective and efficient.
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