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Evergreen lands contract to care for veterans

Evergreen Health Care has been awarded a one-year, $485,000 contract with the VA Maryland Health Care System to provide primary care for up to 1,000 veterans who would otherwise face lengthy delays in getting medical appointments.

Baltimore-based Evergreen Health Cooperative is a health care and health insurance hybrid company founded in 2012 by Dr. Peter Beilenson, who formerly held public health positions in Baltimore city and Howard County. Evergreen Health Care is the medical services arm of the company.

Evergreen’s contract enables providers in the VA Maryland Health Care system to refer new patients to one of Evergreen’s four community clinics instead of waiting months to be seen be a VA provider.

Directing veterans to private providers is part of the VA’s solution to widespread problems regarding excessive wait times at VA facilities. The problems were exposed in VA systems across the country, including within the Maryland system, which is comprised of two medical centers, one rehabilitation center and six outpatient clinics.

The contract with Evergreen is the first of its kind for the VA Maryland Health Care System, according to system spokeswoman Rosalia Scalia.

The VA Maryland will contact all veterans who are at least three months away from getting an appointment and ask if they would prefer to be seen by an Evergreen provider or stay on the waitlist.

Veterans who choose to be seen at an Evergreen center will be directed to the clinic closest to where they live (Baltimore, Columbia, White Marsh or Greenbelt).

Depending on the level of interest among vets, patients should be seen by an Evergreen provider “probably within a day or two, but definitely within a week,” Beilenson said.

The VA will reimburse Evergreen for providing all kinds of primary care, including various screenings, exams, preventive care and general outpatient care.

Mental health screenings for conditions such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder would be covered, for example, while more specialized care, such as consultations regarding prosthetic limbs, would not. Evergreen providers can also write referrals to other specialists, as necessary.

It’s also a mutually beneficial arrangement. Evergreen centers are far from full, so Beilenson said he contacted the VA to volunteer to take on new veteran patients. The VA then put out a Request for Proposals, and Evergreen won.

“So actually, in this case, we’re fortunate that we’re not at capacity and that we have the ability to get these people seen quickly,” he said. “We’re about to serve those who have served us. So it’s kind of a win-win-win — for veterans, for the VA, because they can decrease their backlog, and for Evergreen, because it helps to fill up our centers.”

Beilenson said the VA told him to expect about 1,000 patients, but Evergreen could handle even more.

Other efforts by the VA Maryland Health Care System to address the backlog of patients include hiring additional physicians and other practitioners, re-introducing Saturday primary-care clinics and partnering with community providers, officials at the system said in a statement.

“This new partnership with Evergreen Health Care will serve as an additional resource to improve access to primary care for new veteran patients by offering them a choice in the community,” Dr. Adam Robinson, chief of staff for the system, said in a statement.