With health care dollars drying up and Brooklyn hospitals under pressure to treat more patients with fewer resources, an innovative new health plan is improving health outcomes for the borough’s HIV/AIDS patients while helping to bring down costs.
Nonprofit health plan Amida Care treats more than 2,000 low-income HIV/AIDS patients in Brooklyn, its innovative new mobile engagement team recognized recently by state Sen. Velmanette Montgomery and Assemblymember Annette Robinson.
“Although an HIV-positive diagnosis is no longer considered a death sentence, many Brooklyn residents, particularly low-income people and communities of color, are disproportionately impacted by the disease,” said Montgomery. “Through their innovative mobile engagement teams and compassionate health outreach workers, Amida Care is ensuring that those in our community who are impacted by the disease are getting the lifesaving care and support they need.”
In operation since 2003, Amida Care is a New York State Special Needs Plan (SNP) that provides high-quality care at a lower cost than traditional Medicaid to more than 5,600 low-income New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS. It offers a choice of more than 175 HIV Specialist Primary Care Providers at 24 hospitals throughout New York City.
“Amida Care has succeeded in reaching out to thousands of vulnerable Brooklyn residents living with HIV/AIDS and providing them with the highest quality health care possible,” said Robinson. “Through its innovative mobile engagement teams, Amida Care is improving the health and quality of life of thousands of Brooklyn residents.”
Amida Care’s innovative model includes deploying community health outreach workers and mobile engagement teams in key neighborhoods, and conducting intensive outreach to ensure that at-risk individuals receive continuous care. Amida Care’s model is credited with improving patients’ access to lifesaving care while reducing hospital stays by 25 percent.
Interfaith Medical Center and SUNY Downstate, two Brooklyn hospitals, play an integral role in Amida Care’s SNP by providing HIV-positive patients direct access to specialists and ensuring they continue to receive the medical attention they need.
“With more than 1,200 patients under our care, and innovative programs that address medical and psychosocial issues of HIV patients across a variety of ages and backgrounds, Downstate has long been a leader in HIV care in New York City,” said Dr. Jack DeHovitz, distinguished service professor and director of the HIV Center for Women and Children at SUNY Downstate. “Amida Care provides an additional level of care management that complements our diverse array of services. As a result, our clinical and research programs excel in patient retention and quality of care.”
“Interfaith Medical Center strives to provide HIV patients with high-quality services and one-on-one care to ensure they are able to live their lives to the fullest,” said Dr. Shamim Ahmed, provider at Interfaith. “We are proud of our partnership with Amida Care. The plan has phenomenal success with patient outreach by using its innovative mobile engagement teams and community workers. Amida Care complements our services, and as a result, we are able to treat over 500 low-income residents living with HIV.”
Denice R., a member of Amida Care who is both HIV-positive and a survivor of breast cancer, has been receiving her medical care in Brooklyn for over 20 years. Amida Care introduced her to the appropriate doctors, and today she said that joining the plan is the best decision she ever made.
“Amida Care has always been there for me,” said Denice. “They remind me of my appointments and medications, and the health care providers treat me with dignity and respect.”
With traditional “fee-for-service” Medicaid, there is little coordination of care for people living with HIV/AIDS, and the care is both of lower quality and more expensive than it needs to be. Amida Care provides the most cost-effective care possible by focusing on keeping members enrolled in continuous treatment and ensuring that all physicians are HIV/AIDS specialists.
Amida Care was established by major AIDS nonprofits and community organizations in New York City to improve the health of low-income people with HIV/AIDS, who often also face the challenges of homelessness, poverty or substance abuse. Even though many of Amida Care’s members have histories of mental illness or incarceration, the plan has succeeded in keeping “hard-to-reach” individuals in continuous, high-quality care.
“By reaching out to people living with HIV/AIDS and increasing the number of people on medication treatment, Amida Care has decreased the number of its members’ hospitalizations by 25 percent and reduced hospital lengths of stay by 15 percent,” explained Doug Wirth, Amida Care CEO. “This not only saves money, it also improves the quality of life for our members, their families, and the neighborhoods they live in.”
Amida Care’s approach has resulted in increased quality in care and reduced costs in comparison with traditional fee-for-service Medicaid programs. For example, a 2010 survey by the New York State Department of Health found that 92 percent of members are engaged in regular ongoing care, a remarkably high rate of participation in a population with significant social and economic challenges.