Free healthcare clinic opened for 9/11 responders
The federal government has hired Optum to operate a new clinic in Manhattan for survivors of the 9/11 attacks who have enrolled in an ongoing health program
By Christopher Snowbeck
NEW YORK — The federal government has hired Eden Prairie-based Optum to operate a new clinic in Manhattan for survivors of the 9/11 attacks who have enrolled in an ongoing health program.
The clinic, which is expected to open this month, will be run by the Optum business that already manages care across much of the country for people at risk for health issues connected to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Optum, which is the health services division of Minnetonka-based UnitedHealth Group, said the new contract along with a separate agreement to provide consultations for certain military patients have an approximate value of $58.7 million.
"It is an honor to be entrusted with the care of these two very important groups of heroes, those who responded and survived the 9/11 attacks, and those entering the military to defend our nation," said retired Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho, chief executive of a company division called OptumServe, in a statement.
The World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program was launched in 2011 to replace two earlier health-monitoring programs related to people impacted by the 9/11 attacks.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than 400,000 people were exposed to toxic contaminants, risks of traumatic injury and physically and emotionally stressful conditions in the days, weeks and months following the attacks. The WTC Health Program, which is run through a branch of the CDC, offers care for those directly affected by the attacks on New York City, the Pentagon and Shanksville, Pa.
The program provides medical and mental health services at no cost to patients. It provides monitoring and treatment services for certified health conditions related to 9/11.
In the New York area, patients receive care at designated centers. Elsewhere, patients can seek care through a national provider network that's managed by OptumServe via a La Crosse, Wis.-based business called Logistics Health Incorporated (LHI).
LHI also will run the new clinic, which the government said will be available to screening-eligible survivors who have enrolled in the WTC Health Program and therefore are eligible for a one-time initial health evaluation.
Beginning in mid-2017, the program began seeing an increased number of individuals seeking enrollment in the program, the CDC said. The launch of the new clinic should reduce the waiting time for initial health evaluations, according to the CDC.
"It's like an overflow," said John Feal, a patient advocate who said he's encouraged by the new clinic. "It's just another way that they're thinking outside the box to expedite people in and out of their appointments."
Survivors are people who were present in the New York City disaster area or in the aftermath of the attacks by virtue of their work, residence or attendance at school, child care or adult day care. That's one of four groups of people who can qualify — the other three are focused on 9/11 first responders.
As of June, 71,831 responders and 16,653 survivors were enrolled in the WTC Health Program. Of those people, 44,440 have one or more certified health conditions, and more than 28,000 have received treatment for a certified condition in the past year.
"The program is the secondary payer for all approved health care services," according to the program website. "This means that the member's private or public insurance will be billed first, and the WTC Health Program will pay for any remaining costs, such as copays or coinsurance."
Optum said the new clinic can provide health evaluations, monitoring exams, diagnostic services and treatment for people in the program who live in the New York metropolitan area. The federal government said it expects the new clinic will operate for two years, at which point the program will assess if there's an ongoing need.
In the other federal contract award, Optum's LHI business will continue to provide specialty consultations on behalf of the U.S. Department of Defense for applicants entering the U.S. Armed Forces. The company also will continue coordinating the delivery of medical testing and laboratory services for those applicants.
"The five-year follow-on contract begins Sept. 1, 2018," OptumServe said in a news release. OptumServe is a vendor of health services and expertise to agencies of the federal government.