Governor Calls on Rutgers to Improve Health Care and Control Medicaid Costs

Governor Calls on Rutgers to Improve Health Care and Control Medicaid Costs

Budget address highlights ongoing projects and calls on the university to expand the scope of research

 Joel C. Cantor, director of Rutgers’ Center for State Health Policy
Gov. Chris Christie’s Fiscal Year 2015 budget address shined a spotlight on several initiatives at Rutgers to improve health care for the state’s neediest while lowering costs, with the governor calling on the university to expand research to fix a system in need of reform.

Christie cited the need to improve care for “super-utilizers” – the 5 percent of Medicaid patients who account for half of the program’s cost.

“Rutgers is already showing leadership in this area, studying how to improve care for these super-utlizers for the federal government,” Christie said in his address.

Super-utilizers are usually patients who suffer from multiple chronic illnesses and are frequently hospitalized, explained Joel C. Cantor, director of Rutgers’ Center for State Health Policy and a distinguished professor of public policy.

“If I need a heart transplant this is a great country to be in,’’ Cantor said. “But if I have congestive heart failure, diabetes and bipolar disorder and I don’t have a stable housing situation, the system handles it poorly. Those are the people who come back to the hospital over and over again.’’ 

Programs that tackle the problem, including projects involving the State Health Policy Center, offer an interdisciplinary approach of coordinator care “to get patients on a path where they can better self-manage,’’ Cantor said. “If we could do a better job caring for those people more cost effectively, they would be better off and we would save some money.”

In 2012, the Center for State Health Policy launched a project in four different states that provides coordinated care for patients who are super-utilizers of hospital care, many covered by Medicaid, Cantor said. The center’s work is funded by a $14 million federal grant and is expected to save as much as $65 million in reduced hospital spending in three years.

Christie also mentioned that the state is working to launch an Accountable Care Organization pilot program “to look at how care management and coordination can help lower costs’’ for Medicaid patients while still improving care.

Cantor said the Rutgers center will work with the state to support the launch of the ACO and analyze its progress. The center is also involved in studying other major Medicaid initiatives in the state.

He characterized the governor’s address as “a call to action.’’ Cantor said the university is poised to play an expanded research role and work with the state to obtain a deeper understanding of the barriers people face to stay healthy.

 “This is something we have been working on for years and the high-level policy interest energizes us,’’ Cantor said.

Improving the health and wellness of individuals and populations is one of five integrating themes identified in the university’s five-year strategic plan adopted by the Rutgers Board of Governors. These unifying themes underscore Rutgers’ unique academic strengths and potential and set a direction and context for strategic priorities.