LONDONDERRY - This time next year, more medical services could be available at The Mountain Valley Medical Clinic. The clinic, established in 1976 is the last independent clinic in the state of Vermont, Chuck Sweetman, chair of the board said.

"We've been in operation almost 40 years, he said. "About a year ago, we formed a strategic alliance study committee, to look at the advantages and disadvantages if we partnered with someone else."

Sweetman said the communities the clinic serves have always been very helpful, raising nearly $300,000 a year to help fill out the clinics operating budget. But with the changes to health care recently, especially regarding health insurance and reimbursements for Medicaid and Medicare, it has become more challenging to run the clinic. Sweetman said for every Medicaid or Medicare visit, the clinic gets reimbursed for 65 percent of that visit's cost. However, Medicaid and Medicare users visit the doctor on average national 7 times a year, as opposed to 1.5 times a year for someone with private insurance.

"I'll give you an example, We get $90 per visit back for the Medicare folks,: He said. "If we joined a larger organization, a federal health care center type of network, we would get $150. That's a huge difference."

Enter Springfield Medical Care Systems, located in Springfield, Vt.

Anna Smith, director of marketing and communications at Springfield Medical Care Systems, said in an e-mail that an MVMC integration would provide increased administrative support, as well as other services, like behavioral health and a discount pharmaceutical program.


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"SMCS offers MVMC the opportunity to pool resources, share expenses and expand services," she wrote.

Joining this system would make the clinic a medical home, which provides an expectation of expanded services, like a social worker, mental health professionals or even a dentist, Sweetman said. Currently, those services, along with providers like a pediatrician are currently not offered at the clinic.

"Springfield Medical Care Systems, look at it like it has legs or tentacles that go off that," he said.

Nationwide, Smith wrote that health care facilities of all sizes have been looking at ways to improve the delivery of health care.

"After discussions with many neighboring hospitals and medical clinics, attention focused more closely on SMCS for a variety of reasons, including geographic location, cultural fit, and the ability to integrate with an organization that could provide efficiencies, service, resources and improved financial opportunities."

He stressed that this is partnership is still in the preliminary phases. Springfield Medical Care Systems has applied to the federal government to add a new access point, Sweetman said.

A public forum was held and well attended Aug. 14, he said. The meeting was very positive, with several residents supportive of the idea.

Sweetman said now the clinic has to draft a memorandum of understanding with Springfield Medical Care Systems. This will be added to the federal application and then firmer contract will be arrived upon. While this partnership is still in the preliminary stages, Sweetman said if everything goes smoothly, the partnership could be in place by this time next year.

While the agreement is still preliminary, Smith wrote that the affiliation between MVMC and SMCS will allow MVMC to act in the best interest of all the communities involved in the partnership to preserve high quality health care for years to come.

Sweetman said the community and the people involved with MVMC want to make sure the best care, as well as expanded services could come out of this integration. A potential expansion in service could be weekend hours during ski season, when there are more people in the area.

"The clinic has been here for 40 years and we want to ensure that the clinic will be here for the next 40 years ... for future residents," he said.