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Claypool proposes health network

Thursday, March 24, 2005
Crain's Chicago Business
by Brett Chase

Cook County would partner with private hospitals and clinics to provide early and preventative health care to the uninsured under a plan by Commissioner Forrest Claypool to be released today.

The proposal calls for the creation of a regional council of health care providers. A key part of the plan involves locating physician specialists in hospitals serving low-income neighborhoods - areas that presently lack such services, Claypool said.

The plan is modeled off of a similar plan in St. Louis County in Missouri.

The idea is to treat the working poor for ailments before they get too serious, since emergency-room care for uninsured patients is a major contributor to rising health care costs. The county spends almost $1 billion a year treating the uninsured and private providers spend about twice that amount, he said.

Diabetes is an example of a disease that requires multiple specialists, including podiatrists, cardiologists, Claypool said. Some hospitals have trouble attracting such specialists, but the doctors could be enticed to join these hospitals with government-sponsored malpractice insurance, Claypool said.

Almost 23% of Chicago residents are uninsured, according to figures provided by Claypool.

Hundreds of thousands of people in the county could have the quality of their health care improved under the proposal, Claypool said.

The proposal does not require any additional County funding, he said. Claypool intends to start meeting with health care providers.



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