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MD Health Enterprise Zones Seek to Reduce Costs

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, March 6, 2013

We hear a lot these days about dysfunctional government, so it's refreshing to hear about proposals to address nagging and persistent issues in community health.

For example, the state of Maryland in January launched a four-year $16 million pilot project that designates five "Health Enterprise Zones" in communities across the state.

Under the HEZ designation, five community coalitions were picked from 19 applicants to receive funding from the pilot after they identified contiguous geographic areas whose residents are poor and suffer from significant levels of chronic illnesses such as asthma, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.

If all goes as intended, HEZs might pay for themselves—if they reduce health disparities among the racial and ethnic minority populations within the zones, improve access to cost-effective and coordinated primary care services, and reduce costs through a reduction in hospital admissions, readmissions, and emergency room visits for otherwise non-emergent care.  

Bon Secours Baltimore Health System, through its affiliation with the West Baltimore Primary Care Access Collaborative won HEZ designation with a plan that includes expanding primary care services by adding eight new primary care physicians, 10 other associated primary care providers, and an extensive support and outreach staff.

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