They play dominoes, dance and see their doctors, all in one place.
For nearly 50 years — long before the health-care overhaul made the term fashionable — the Humana-owned medical centers have offered South Florida seniors a "medical home."
Next month the company will add a third Orlando center, off Semoran Boulevard, and two more in the Tampa area. By year's end, the company will have expanded its Florida footprint to a total of 23 centers, said Kent.
The centers serve Medicare Advantage members of Humana and CarePlus Health Plans, a Medicare HMO, as well as patients who have original Medicare and Medicaid, said Kent. All the centers' services, including food and transportation, are covered by the plan.
Based on a Cuban model that combines wellness, socializing and medical care in one place, the first center opened in 1964 in Miami under the name Clinica Asociacion Cubana, hence CAC.
The concept grew to 11 centers, which Humana bought in 2005.
Today the 16 centers have 23,000 Medicare patients enrolled. By the end of the year, Kent expects enrollment to hit 31,000. When the centers are running at capacity, the patient population will be closer to 50,000.
"Without this center, I would go crazy at home," said Maria Achong, of Kissimmee, after she and two dozen other seniors had finished chair class, an instructor-led workout that included stretching and balance exercises.
Achong, age 71, comes almost daily to the Kissimmee CAC center courtesy of the center's bus, which drives her to and from home.
On a typical day, she exercises, socializes and participates in an activity or craft at the center. She also has breakfast and lunch. This day she had her choice of playing bingo, joining the knitting circle or painting.
Other days, activities include Silver Sneakers, a popular exercise programs for older adults; Wild Fridays, when seniors dance and play ball; and a CAC beauty contest.
"My doctor told me I had to come because if we seniors stay at home we get depressed," said Achong, who only sees her doctor at the center once every two or three months.
Being connected to others "adds to overall health," said Kent, 44. "When seniors are here and engaged and have a care team wrapped around them, they do much better."
The concept is an important one in terms of aging and wellness, said Jody Gastfriend, vice president of senior care services for Care.com, a company that helps patients nationwide find providers and health-care resources.
"Studies have shown that seniors who have more social connections live longer, are more likely to seek preventive care and have a reduced risk of cognitive decline and depression," she said.
Humana's own audits have found that since taking over the program, unnecessary emergency room visits dropped by 39 percent among its Medicare population, and inpatient admissions fell by 27 percent, said Kent.
Adds years, saves money
When the first Orlando centers opened last year, the reception "was tremendous," Kent said. "Even though the model was new here, in our first year, we exceeded expected patient growth by 200 percent."
Orlando's newest center will be 10,000-square feet, and, like others in the system, will include an exercise and activity area, a pharmacy, diagnostic testing and outpatient medical care, including services from primary care doctors and specialists. Physicians will be available 24 hours a day.
"When patients exercise and have a place to go, they feel good, and they feel good about their health care. That keeps them in a positive state of mind," said Kent.
"Many seniors are alone. Their spouses have died, their children have moved on and are busy with their own lives. They get apprehensive and feel displaced," said Kent. By countering that, he said, the centers contribute to better health.
"Isolation is a real risk for seniors," said Gastfriend. When seniors see the same social group often, someone is more likely to notice slight changes in function, which can be important in their preventive care.
Of the 170 visitors to the Kissimmee center this day, Kent says about 20 will see the doctor, and about 150 will play bingo, exercise or do another activity.
"This is a value-over-volume model," said Kent, referring to the new Medicare reimbursement coming under the health-care overhaul law. Payments will be based on outcomes not on the number of medical procedures performed.
"We are adding years to lives and saving money," he said. "I believe this is the model that needs to be adopted all over the United States. Those whose focus is still fee for service should be scared."
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