As AmeriHealth District of Columbia takes over for D.C. Chartered Health Plan this month, the top level managers are homing in on one health care element–Medicaid for 100,000 D.C. residents.

“All we do is care for Medicaid folks,” said Michael A. Rashid, president and chief executive officer of ACFC. “We are focused and we believe that any time you focus on something, and that’s your mission, you’re going to do it better than if you don’t focus.”

Rashid’s remarks came during a recent conversation with the AFRO as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Anne Morrissey and Executive Director Karen Dale outlined the important changes that went into effect on May 1.

“I’m very excited to continue to be here serving a population that has a lot of need,” said Dale, who was Chartered Health’s chief operating officer and is now overseeing a staff of more than 150 experienced Medicaid workers under AmeriHealth District of Columbia. “All of this additional support and expertise is only going to help us do tremendous good in changing the lives and the health of our members.”

With the AmeriHealth takeover, D.C. area Medicaid recipients, effective May 1, now have access to a “comprehensive suite of services” that include physical and behavioral health coverage through the company’s PerformCare business, pharmacy services through the company’s Perform Rx subsidiary and dental and vision services designed to improve quality outcomes for Medicaid beneficiaries, the firm said in a recent news release.

AmeriHealth District of Columbia is a member of the AmeriHealth Caritas Family Companies (ACFC), a national leader in managed care and other health care services, which operates in 13 states and serves over 4.7 million beneficiaries.
Most of AmeriHealth D.C.’s target patient group live in the eight, seventh, and fourth wards, parts of the city in which diabetes and obesity are widespread, Dale said, noting that she plans to tailor services to treat that population.

AmeriHealth D.C. intends to bring a bigger and more efficient structure to healthcare, the firm’s executives said, starting with a new 35,000-square-foot headquarters at 1120 Vermont Ave N.W in downtown D.C.

“We’ll bring some of our community programs, enhanced technology, and our care management system,” said Morrissey, a D.C. native who is also a registered nurse and clinical and business expert.

There will be a transition period during which many aspects of Chartered will remain intact to help prevent confusion among patients. Rashid said that the health benefits, doctors, and even the phone number will remain the same. He also added that member identification cards will remain valid until new cards are issued. AmeriHealth staff has been placed at local pharmacies to provide assistance to members during the transition.

“Starting today, any services that are rendered, AmeriHealth is standing behind paying doctors 100 percent of the contracted rate and paying them promptly,” said Rashid who has over 30 years of experience working in the Medicaid field.
According to Families USA, a national nonprofit, non-partisan health care advocacy organization, more than 58 million people currently rely on Medicaid. They also note that the Patent Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) signed into law by President Obama in 2010 will allow millions more to qualify.

“It’s a 1,800-page document so of course you’re not going to like everything, but the dominant thing for us is that it’s an effort to cover 40 million uninsured people,” said Rashid. “If it’s going to provide coverage for people who are dying every day, we’re all for it.”

Staffs at AmeriHealth D.C. estimate that currently around 165,000 people receive managed care services in D.C., but as the PPACA begins to take effect in 2014, those numbers will increase.

In the interim, AmeriHealth D.C. officers say they want to encourage local physicians to become part of the AmeriHealth network of providers.

“We want our providers to say, ‘You have to get with AmeriHealth District of Columbia because they’ll be able to help you, they’ll be able to help me, and you’ll have much better health outcomes,’ ” said Morrissey.