Carney to get $19.1m in push to enhance its business model

Carney Hospital is expected to receive $19.1 million over three years as the Dorchester Avenue medical center works with the state to pilot alternative health care payment models.

The funds, which are considered incentive payments, would be provided by the federal and state governments to seven “safety net” hospitals, including the Carney, to encourage them to focus on electronic safety, quality innovations, and infrastructure improvements.

The strings attached to the grants include the conversion of primary care practices to “patient-centered medical homes” and the creation of provider networks linked through electronic health records, according to the state’s Department of Health and Human Services. The hospitals must also focus on establishing better coordinating care when patients leave a hospital in order to lessen re-admissions.

Andy Davis, the head of Carney Hospital, called the funding “a sign of things to come for health care and the Carney.” The funds will lead to “greater access” for low-income patients, he added.

Dr. Julian Harris, the state’s director of the Office of Medicaid, said the money will give patients with chronic diseases access to health care workers “who can help them navigate the health system.”

The funding announcement was made at the Carney on Tuesday where health officials were joined by several lawmakers, including state Sen. Jack Hart, state Reps. Linda Dorcena Forry and Russell Holmes, and City Councillor At-Large Felix Arroyo.

“This is very good news for the Carney going forward because as we all know, the Carney is struggling, like many other health care centers around,” Hart said. The funding presents a “big shot in the arm” for Carney, he added.

Other hospitals receiving similar funds include Boston Medical Center, Lawrence General Hospital, Holyoke Medical Center, Cambridge Health Alliance, Mercy Medical Center, and Signature Healthcare Brockton Hospital. All are considered “safety net” hospitals in part due to the number of patients on Medicaid.

The often-beleaguered Carney has been owned since 2010 by the for-profit hospital chain Steward Health Care System, which bought out the non-profit Roman Catholic Caritas Christi chain of hospitals.

The relationship between the state and hospital systems can seem rocky at times. As Harris and Carney officials touted the funds, State House News Service reported that a hospital industry association was expressing dissatisfaction with the Patrick administration’s Medicaid contract and the fiscal 2013 budget’s $40 million in rate cuts.

“Despite significant hospital success in reducing costs in the healthcare system, the continuing decline in Medicaid rates not only places mounting pressure on hospitals, but results in higher private insurance premiums for individuals and employers,” the industry’s newsletter noted.

Material from State House News Service was used in this report.