In the hope of improving health care for Medicaid patients and cutting medical costs, Harbor Hospital Center of Baltimore is opening a clinic tomorrow offering specialized services for adults and children.
Operated by a corporation of doctors, Harbor Family Care will accept most government and commercial insurance plans, while giving Medicaid patients the sort of service offered at health maintenance organizations. That is, Medicaid patients will be assigned one doctor through whom they can be referred to others if necessary.
It's part of the Maryland Access to Care program, launched last December with the goal of improving care for Medicaid patients. The idea for the clinic came as a result of the new state program, then wasexpanded to include patients with other insurance plans.
The clinic, located across the street from Harbor Hospital Center on South Hanover Street in Baltimore, will be open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
It'sbeing operated by a corporation called the Harbor Medical Group, made up of 35 member doctors. About 40 to 45 doctors in all will provideservices at the clinic, said Jackie Breeden, spokeswoman for Harbor Hospital Center.
The extended hours will allow patients to use Harbor Family Care for emergencies that are not life-threatening, where they otherwise might have no choice but to use the more expensive hospital emergency room.
The average emergency room visit costs about$80, while a visit to the clinic would run about $50, said DeWayne L. Oberlander, a senior vice president of Harbor Health System Corp.
"Our overhead is much lower than the hospital," said Dr. Jorge Calderon, the clinic's medical director.
And because the clinic is physically separate from the hospital, the cost of running it is considered separately, said Barbara Clauser, administrator for the Maryland Access to Care project.
The clinic is located in a building that once housed a car dealer, Inner Harbor Ford. Harbor Hospital Center bought the building for $1.2 million in September 1990, and spent about$300,000 renovating it. The clinic occupies a little more than 10 percent of the 36,000-square foot building.