Tufts launches Minuteman Health

By Diana Manos
10:32 AM
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Tufts Medical Center, its New England Quality Care Alliance (NEQCA) physicians network and the Nashville, Tenn.-based Vanguard Health Systems announced Friday their sponsorship of a new payment model, the Minuteman Health Initiative.

Minuteman will offer increased transparency, allowing members to easily access their health records and enabling providers to see what services their patients are receiving in order to better manage care, said Tufts officials in a written statement. Providers will be able to channel feedback from patients to the plan to help it continually improve. Employers will have access to information about the overall health of their workers to help tailor wellness programs with their employees' providers, and members will be able to see what services cost at different providers in order to better plan for their future costs.

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The program has received an $88.5 million loan from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), according to Tufts. The new member-governed, non-profit health insurance option for Massachusetts residents intends to offer consumers and employers lower-cost, high-quality care with unprecedented transparency, as well as increased efficiency and satisfaction for physicians, patients and employers alike, said officials.

"This funding is fantastic news for consumers, employers and health care providers in Massachusetts," said Eric Beyer, president and CEO of Tufts Medical Center and Floating Hospital for Children. "This smart new model for health plans will further our revolutionary legacy and our focus on quality and efficiency by providing great new health insurance options to small businesses and individuals."

"Our goal is to create a smart, efficient health insurance model that keeps administrative costs low,” Beyer added. “We plan to use the knowledge we have gained from decades of experience with patients to craft this offering and meet the needs of consumers and physicians.”

Minuteman's network will include the hospitals and doctors of Tufts MC and Floating Hospital for Children, NEQCA and Vanguard-owned MetroWest Medical Center and Saint Vincent Hospital, and will seek to establish a broad network of high-quality, lower-cost providers across the state. Seventeen hospitals have already signed letters of support, and Minuteman looks forward to growing its network over the coming year, according to Tufts.

Upon receiving the necessary approval from the Massachusetts Division of Insurance, Minuteman plans to begin insuring members no later than January 2014, as required by CMS. Minuteman anticipates offering its products to individuals and small businesses through the state Health Insurance Connector and through broker sales channels, Tufts officials said.

"This is a terrific opportunity to give consumers and small businesses a voice in their health care options," said Ellen Zane, chair of Minuteman Health's formation board. "The best way to improve health care quality while restraining costs is to align the incentives of insurers, consumers and providers. A member-governed health insurance company will enable consumers to have a say in how their care is provided and paid for."

"The nearly 1,600 physicians of the New England Quality Care Alliance are excited to be part of the innovative network being established by Minuteman Health," said Jeff Lasker, MD, CEO of NEQCA. "We believe we can lower costs and improve patients' health by aligning the consumer's voice and the physician's expertise. The establishment of this plan through CMS allows us to design insurance products from scratch that best fit patients' needs and today's health care environment."

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Erik Wexler, President of the New England Market for Vanguard Health Systems and President and CEO of Saint Vincent Hospital, hailed the CMS loan announcement as a "milestone moment for a state that has been a consistent leader in health care innovations."

Senator John Kerry (D-MA) said the loan is an endorsement of the success that Minuteman Health will achieve as a non-profit, consumer-controlled health insurance provider.

“Improving efficiency and reducing administrative is a smart solution to keep premiums low for Massachusetts business owners and consumers while delivering high quality care,” said Kerry. “Their promise of transparency in billing helps ensure consumers understand what they're paying for.”

Kerry said in May that he asked Secretary Sebelius to consider Minuteman Health's proposal because it is an exemplary model for the types of provider solutions that are called for by the Affordable Care Act.

"The Minuteman Initiative will offer Massachusetts residents additional choices and administrative simplicity, while also improving quality of care. This effort is another example of national leadership in health innovation that is the hallmark of Massachusetts health care," said Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-MA), dean of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation.

"Congratulations to all those who have cooperated to create the Minuteman Health Initiative,” added Rep. Mike Capuano (D-MA). “It is the first such venture in Massachusetts to be funded through the Affordable Care Act. The ACA encourages innovation in the structure and governance of health plans, as hospitals and doctors seek to control cost and improve quality of care. I will watch Minuteman's progress with great interest."