Mixed reviews on first day of new health care program for low-income adults

So far, so good -- that's the way the new health care replacement program for General Assistance Medical Care is going at Hennepin County Medical Center.

Dr. Mark Linzer, the division director for general internal medicine at HCMC ,says he didn't expect that a lot would happen on the first day.

"I think that people are still sorting out what they can do," Linzer said. "What we've done is build a system of care to try to take care of them. It's the best we can do on short notice and with limited funds."

Linzer says HCMC added teams of people to its medical clinics to help serve patients. He says they're gearing up to serve as many as 9,000 people, but it's still too early to say what kind of kinks the hospital will have to work out under the new Coordinated Care Delivery System, or CCDS.

CCDS is the result of legislative compromise to preserve health coverage for bout 30,000 low-income Minnesotans who rely on General Assistance Medical Care.

The program was cut by about 75 percent, so the scaled-back program will force hospitals that treat GAMC patients to cope with less.

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While the kinks may not be visible yet for HCMC, some CCDS clients are seeing some. Monica Nilsson with the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless tells the story of one of her clients who is in the midst of extensive dental work that requires more than one visit.

"His next scheduled appointment was today, and as of today, that appointment was canceled," Nilsson said. So he's, at least for the time being, he needs to stall the continuation of getting his dental care."

She says her client is frustrated. And some hospitals say there is confusion with the new program as well. Dr. Jerome Siy is the director of the one the CCDS clinics run by Health Partners Medical Group.

"We're seeing that there are patients that may have had ongoing care for some time now in a clinic," Siy said. "While they received the correct messages from the state and from their clinic about their options for their care, they did all the right things, they enrolled in a CCDS, but then they came back to their clinic to find out that while they did the right thing, the clinic wasn't part of that system and they can't continue having that care there."

In the Twin Cities, four hospitals have opted into the program and will get a lump sum of money to care for a certain number of patients.