Washington -Today, Senator Menendez introduced legislation intended to ensure that women have access to health care providers that understand and are focused on health issues unique to women. With health care reform taking center stage in Congress, Menendez hopes that the program can be included as part of a broader health care reform package and can ultimately help demonstrate ways to provide more effective care that fits women's unique health issues.

The Women's Medical Demonstration Act would establish an unprecedented program that gives women access to a "medical home" - for instance a physician or federally-qualified health center - who can manage their total health care and focus on their unique health care needs. The specificity and volume of services associated with women's health care delivery, such as routine preventative care, pregnancy, menopause, and gynecologic and breast health, make this a compelling area within which a pilot program can be tested. This project would inform the redesign of the health care delivery system for women to provide targeted, accessible, continuous, coordinated, confidential and comprehensive care with a particular focus on preventing, treating and managing conditions that uniquely affect women.

"With unique health needs, women require unique health care," said Menendez. "Throughout the different stages of a woman's life and the changes that accompany each stage, it is essential for her to have access to comprehensive medical care that attends to her needs. This program will promote quality and targeted health care for every woman, regardless of social or economic background."

Rooted in the principles of increasing access to quality and affordable health care, patient-provider communication and collaborative care, medical homes are emblematic of a shift that must occur in our health care system -- toward one focused on preventive care, better recognition of medical programs, early intervention, and care coordination between various providers. As such, it is as a compelling area within which to expand and improve women's health care delivery and an excellent model to assess for larger and broader reforms in this area.
The program would extend for an initial period of 3 years and would be carried out in eight states in diverse geographic areas and a mix of practice settings. A representative sample of health care providers -- including physicians, certified nurses and midwives and physician assistants - and patients that are currently Medicaid and SCHIP beneficiaries will be eligible to participate.