Thursday, November 15, 2018|| By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews || Updated: 11/18/18
Featured image: Bellwood officials, community leaders and Oak Street Health employees cut the ribbon on the company’s newest primary care center in Bellwood on Nov. 15. | J. Boston
Washington Square, the retail mall that anchors the corner of 25th Avenue and Washington Boulevard in Bellwood, has a new tenant.
Oak Street Health, a Chicago-based network of primary health care centers for Medicare patients, held a grand opening on Nov. 15 for their newest facility at 456 S. 25th Ave. in Bellwood — the company’s first location in Proviso Township.
“Patients will have access to door-to-door transportation, along with unique programming including fitness classes, computer lessons, educational opportunities and movie screenings to foster relationships and build community,” according to a statement released by the company on Thursday.
According to Oak Street Health officials, the company is mainly a provider through Medicare Advantage, which is Medicare-approved health coverage offered by private companies.
Bob Trinh, the president of Oak Street Health’s Illinois division, said that Medicare Advantage is more cost efficient than traditional Medicare — the federal government’s health insurance program for people over 65 years old — because there’s a greater focus on preventing sickness.
“In Medicare Advantage, the cost of health insurance is shifted from the government to health insurance companies,” Trinh said on Thursday. “Those companies are at risk for the costs and as a result, those companies want to ensure that seniors receive great care and that care is coordinated, because if not those seniors are going to the hospital and those hospitalizations are expensive.”
Victoria Prewitt, Oak Street Health’s community relations manager; Brad Minkow, regional vice president; Bellwood Mayor Andre Harvey and Bob Trinh, president of Oak Street Health’s Illinois division, during Thursday’s grand opening. | J. Boston
Brad Minkow, a regional vice president for the company, said that Oak Street and Medicare Advantage see their patients more frequently, and their care teams spend more than twice as long with each patient than a typical doctor’s visit.
The model, Minkow said, has resulted in a 40 percent reduction in hospital visits for those patients and a 94 percent patient retention rate.
Minkow said that the Bellwood facility has been open for roughly three months already. He said that Oak Street Health has outreach teams that go to senior centers, homeless shelters, food shelters and other places where seniors congregate.
Those teams then schedule welcome visits with patient relation managers who show them the center and connect them with potential providers.
“Education is really key,” said Trinh. “My sister’s father-in-law became eligible for Medicare Advantage, but he didn’t know he could sign up for a zero dollar premium plan. He just wasn’t aware.”
Dave Gunn, an outreach associate with Oak Street Health in Bellwood, said that seniors often don’t know what their healthcare coverage options are before he notifies them. Gunn also reinforced other Oak Street Health officials who lauded the company’s focus on preventative care.
“You need to know what your options are,” Gunn said. “Instead of you calling the doctor saying, ‘I’m sick,’ and seeing him two weeks later, you deserve better than that.”
The move to Bellwood marks Oak Street Health’s 15th location in the Chicago area and the 18th in the state. Before the Bellwood location opened, the nearest location serving Proviso Township residents was in Oak Park.
The expansion into Proviso comes as the company is also expanding nationwide. Oak Street Health currently serves 50,000 patients in 40 locations in Illinois, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Ohio and Michigan, according to a report published by Modern Healthcare.
Minkow said the company recently announced expansion into Rhode Island in the spring of 2019. And in September, the company announced that it finalized the acquisition of Philadelphia-based provider CityLife Neighborhood Clinics.
With the acquisition, according to Modern Healthcare, Oak Street Health could reach nearly 75,000 patients.
Maywood Mayor Edwenna Perkins said that Bellwood was fortunate in luring Oak Street Health. She said that the company had originally entertained setting up shop in Maywood. Perkins said that the company’s entry into Proviso Township was facilitated by Maywood Trustee Isiah Brandon, who works for Oak Street Health.
Bellwood Mayor Andre Harvey said that when he and his staff found out that the company was coming into Bellwood, “we were floored and honored.”
“They’re a great company that is on the move,” Harvey said during Thursday’s grand opening. “Our seniors are getting something great and we are happy that they are here to help.”
“This is awesome,” said Perkins. VFP
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