National audience hears CHI safety net expert

CHI was invited to speak last week at a Grantmakers in Health “Issue Dialogue” in Washington, D.C.  The meeting, “Safety Net in the Era of Health Reform: A New Vision of Care,” featured several panels of health care leaders from across the country. Jeff Bontrager, CHI’s Director of Research on Coverage and Access, participated in a panel on monitoring and evaluating the safety net.

Jeff’s presentation highlighted the importance of monitoring the safety net, as well as the approaches CHI has used to monitor it in Colorado. These approaches include using geographic information systems to mark safety net locations; maintaining a database of safety net clinics around the state; obtaining patient counts, workforce and funding data from across the safety net; and using population-based metrics to estimate potential demand for safety net services and areas of unmet need. In addition, he discussed the opportunities and challenges on the horizon for the safety net.

Jeff was joined on the panel by Cecelia Echeverria of the Blue Shield of California Foundation. The Foundation recently released a report, entitled On the Cusp of Change, which discusses findings from an in-depth survey of low-income Californians that asked about their experiences with seeking health care. The report raises timely questions about patient satisfaction, having a medical home, the likelihood of changing providers and the reasons for doing so.

Themes that emerged from the rest of the meeting included the uncertainty of safety net funding amid implications of federal budget cuts and the ongoing work of the Congressional “super committee;” the value and challenges of patient-centered medical homes; and the implications of federal health reform on safety net providers.

A second Issue Dialogue, Too Few Choices, Too Much Junk: Connecting Food and Health focused on U.S. food and agriculture policy; exploring the linkage between poverty, obesity and food insecurity; the built environment and its relationship to health; and state opportunities to promote nutrition and healthy eating.

Jeff Bontrager is the director of research on coverage and access at CHI.