A partnership consisting of a county government, a public hospital, a county-run Medicaid managed care plan, and a federally qualified health center, Hennepin Health is an accountable care organization that seeks to serve high-cost, high-need, high-risk Medicaid patients in the greater Minneapolis area.

Hennepin Health targets such individuals – all childless adults who became eligible for Medicaid when the state expanded its Medicaid program in 2011 – with the help of algorithms, identifies those most likely to incur high medical costs. It then offers a blend of social services, preventive care, and other services to address members’ medical conditions while bringing stability and order to their lives. Seventy-five percent of the program’s members are male, 70 percent are non-white, half lack stable housing, two-thirds suffer from mental illness, 80 percent have substance abuse problems, and 19 percent suffer from chronic pain.

These are the very kinds of patients typically served in especially high numbers by private safety-net hospitals.

The results of the program have been encouraging: the program has improved participants’ access to primary care, reduced emergency room visits, and stabilized the health of participants with chronic medical conditions.   While hospitalizations have not declined, medical costs have fallen an average of 11 percent a year since 2012.

Happy medical team of doctors togetherLed by the county government, Hennepin Health currently serves 12,000 members whose care is financed by Medicaid, with the county assisting with the cost of social services. All four ACO partners invested an initial $1.6 million for staff and data infrastructure and have assumed full financial risk for the venture.

Learn more about how one program is seeking to make a difference in the lives of high-risk, high-need patients while reducing high health care costs in the article “Hennepin Health: A Care Delivery Paradigm for New Medicaid Beneficiaries,” which can be found here, on the web site of The Commonwealth Fund.