CALPERS: Launches Pilot Program To Help Asthma Sufferers
The California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) has launched a pilot project aimed at reducing the frequency and severity of sometimes life-threatening asthma attacks. Approximately 400 asthma sufferers in CalPERS's preferred provider organizations, PERSCare and PERS Choice, were asked to participate and will receive a free, non-invasive, home-testing device, called a peak flow meter, which can often predict an asthma attack by measuring the strength of the patient's breathing. When the device indicates a likely attack, the patient can administer medication to stop or mitigate it. The program is also providing volunteers with free nurse consultations, an on-call pharmacist at a toll-free number to monitor medication and answer questions, and extensive educational materials on asthma control. Administrators stress that the project is designed to supplement care by the personal physician, not replace it. When the program ends on December 31, 1998, the participants will be asked to assess its effectiveness. Their opinions will help determine whether the project should be continued and expanded to other CalPERS health plans. Kurato Shimada, chair of the CalPERS Health Benefits Committee, said, "We hope the project will lead to fewer hospitalizations and emergency room visits, while improving the quality of life and the health of asthma patients. We also expect it to reduce costs for health care consumers and their employers" (release, 4/3).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.