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North Bay gets new model for health care

Meritage Medical Network, a rapidly growing group of physicians and hospitals in the North Bay, has won approval to launch the region's first "accountable care organization," a new type of health care delivery model poised to play a significant role under Obamacare.

As an ACO, Meritage will see its Medicare reimbursements linked to its ability to provide quality care at a lower cost. Any savings it achieves for the government will be shared with Meritage, formerly known as the Marin-Sonoma IPA.

Meritage is taking steps to improve the coordination of health care services, allowing physicians to provide better care for patients while avoiding duplication of services.

"We are building specialized care teams, led by registered nurses, and will provide services that will benefit our members. Services such as prescription refills right in the doctor's office and personalized health coaching are some of the programs that we are developing," Dr. Joseph Habis, Meritage's medical director, said in a statement.

Meritage is the only health care organization in the North Bay to receive designation as an ACO, said Meritage spokeswoman Marcy Norenius.

Norenius said that 210 of the more than 500 doctors in the group have signed up to work with the new ACO. To do so, she said, physicians had to meet a number of requirements, including having electronic health records and participating in programs that reduce health care costs and improve quality.

Meritage contracts with HMO insurance plans for its physician members. It also offers a number of services for physicians and their patients, including continuing medical education and patient education classes.


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