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Ballad Health joins safety net agencies in regional network for uninsured

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Ballad Health, area health departments and safety net health care clinics across the region have partnered to create a new health care network for low-income people without health insurance.

Launched as a pilot program in September, the new Appalachian Highlands Care Network is aimed at bridging gaps in health care access, improving health outcomes and eliminating treatment disparities.

Partners include all Ballad Health hospitals, outpatient services and physician practices, local health departments, federally qualified health centers such as the Johnson City Community Health Center and Downtown Day Center operated by East Tennessee State University’s College of Nursing and other healthcare providers and services affiliated with safety net clinics across the region.

Representatives of Ballad Health, the Northeast Tennessee Regional Health Office and other key partners announced the new network in a virtual press conference Wednesday afternoon.

In a followup press release, Ballad called the partnership “a major, coordinated effort to increase healthcare access for low-income uninsured people” and “a national model for how rural health systems can transform” to reduce costs and health inequities.”

Ballad CEO Alan Levine said in the release, “For years, individual health departments, safety net clinics and healthcare providers have done what they can to care for uninsured, resource-limited people. But to truly improve the health of our communities and reach those who need our help the most, we all have to come together and work cooperatively and collaboratively.’’

“The Appalachian Highlands Care Network represents the first regionwide, coordinated effort to bring organization and technology to address the problems faced by individuals without health insurance in our community. This effort is a natural result of the scale of Ballad Health working in partnership with incredible partners such as ETSU, the University of Virginia’s College at Wise, Project Access and our region’s other safety-net healthcare and social service providers,” Levine said.

The new network was adapted from Appalachian Mountain Project Access, a regional nonprofit healthcare organization based in Johnson City.

Todd Norris, Ballad’s senior vice president of community health and system advancement , said, “For many years, Project Access and our regional safety-net providers have put forth a Herculean effort to provide free or reduced-cost primary care services for the uninsured in our region. After listening to safety-net providers about additional unmet needs in the community, Ballad Health is responding by making new investments that allow the Appalachian Highlands Care Network to provide expanded access to specialty diagnostics, consults and procedures, as well as enhanced care coordination and management for individuals…

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