November 20, 2009

Health-care co-op could work well in North Dakota

Health-care co-op could work well in North Dakota

An initiative to build a health-care cooperative in northwestern North Dakota will remain in place no matter what happens with the health-care debate in Congress.
The initiative is in limbo at the moment, according to former New Town physician Herbert Wilson, depending on what happens with health care on Capitol Hill, but co-op chair Bill Patrie said the initiative, at least, will not fade away because it represents an efficient way to manage health care in the United States.
The cooperative was actually incorporated in March and named after Wilson, 88, who now lives in Bismarck but is still well known on the Fort Berthold Reservation.
“What we hope to do is for people to carry a card around to identify their medical and dental care,” Wilson said. “It is intriguing because co-ops have worked well in North Dakota.”
The co-op would allow anyone to use facilities that aren’t necessarily designed for them. For instance, on Fort Berthold, Indian and non-Indian, as well as veterans, would be able to use the new Elbowoods Healthcare facility that is currently being built in New Town. And, residents who haven’t necessarily been in the military, could use the VA clinic at the Minot Air Force Base.
Patrie said Indian and VA facilities are most often designed to handle just those target groups for which they are built. That can create a real mess and he used kidney dialysis as an example.
He said non-Indian patients who live in New Town for instance, are required to go to Minot to get treatment when there is already a local facility.
“There used to be three clinics operating in New Town,” Patrie said. “Wouldn’t it be nice to have one really good clinic that would be open all the time.”
He said one efficient clinic would personify efficiency and he praised the organizers of Elbowoods for taking that step toward more efficient and cost effective health care on the reservation. But, there are hurdles to cross to get around beauracratic red tape.

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