As a social worker, Sheryl Markowitz had seen the most fragile members of society — the severely disabled, mentally ill and physically ill — and realized they weren’t getting the treatment they needed.
“They were complicated and they needed so much service and so much support and no one has time,” she said.
So she went to work, taking a position at WellPoint, the largest health benefits company in the country by membership, as national director over cases dealing with severely disabled adults. During her nearly five years there she led a team that developed the Integrated Care Model, which would offer this population greater access to medical care.
The idea behind the model was that people with these disabilities were living with illnesses because they either did not have the wherewithal to get to a doctor or didn’t know how to access their medical benefits to pay for it. As a result, they would wait until their illness was too serious to ignore and end up in an emergency room, which didn’t have the time or ability to offer proper care.
With the Integrated Care Model, a case worker might be assigned to a disabled client to get them the care they need before it becomes too late for them, and far too taxing for caregivers.
“The system’s overwhelmed and it’s a totally preventable crisis,” Markowitz explained. “The Integrated Care Model is using everything in the community to help them. They can make sure their prescriptions are filled, or get them on a bus for the hospital so they can become healthier.”
Some form of the model had been used in the clinical social work field for years, but the insurance companies were slow to pick up on it. Markowitz used her expertise in the field to implement the model at WellPoint, which now uses it for its clients.