Steering group targets Medicaid outreach

Citrus County Chronicle
By Chris Van Ormer

INVERNESS — Not all county residents who are eligible for Medicaid, a federal health care program, are getting its benefits, a group of care providers said Thursday.

“For Medicaid, the county has a lower rate than the state rate,” said Lindsey Redding, associate planner with the WellFlorida Council, a private, nonprofit organization that is state-designated to offer health consultancy for clients and projects.

“Overall, 15.6 percent of the county’s residents are eligible to receive Medicaid, which is lower than the state rate of 16.9 percent,” Redding said. “When they say eligible to receive Medicaid, that means are receiving Medicaid. It’s a strange way of phrasing it, but that’s how they do it.”

Along with Shane Bailey, community initiatives director with WellFlorida Council, Redding presented a report called “2013 Citrus County Needs Assessment Technical Report” during the first steering committee meeting of the Citrus County Hospital Board and 19 of the county’s groups that have an interest in health care. Their report was based on 2011 statistical information.

The committee will put together a needs assessment plan. Under a 2011 state law, the board is required to conduct a health needs assessment. WellFlorida Council, hired as the board’s consultant, presented data regarding health care delivery. Based on community feedback, WellFlorida will write the plan.

The Medicaid data hit a nerve with the committee, especially when designating eligibility.

“The way that the data reports is that if they are eligible (for Medicaid), they are signed up,” Redding answered a committee member.

While people may be eligible, they would not be counted as eligible until they were in the Medicaid system, under statistical evidence.

“One of the issues I first got involved with on this board was the issue of people who are eligible, not enrolled, eligible,” said Robert Priselac, hospital board vice chairman. “The problem is we can’t get them signed up because they don’t have a real ID and other factors. There are people out there that maybe we can help and get them enrolled and get them the services. I’d like to know what that figure is: How many people out there do we need to get into the system?”

Debbie Ressler, hospital board chairwoman, said the board and Citrus Memorial Health Foundation held a signup session for Medicaid about two years ago.

“We probably signed up at least 100, didn’t we?” Ressler asked.

Ryan Beaty, Citrus Memorial hospital CEO, concurred.

“There are a lot of folks out there that need help,” Beaty said.

Anne Black, community relations coordinator for HPH Hospice in Citrus County, spoke of her experience as a health department employee in enrolling Medicaid recipients at the signup session.

“The problem at that signup was many of them were guys between 18 and 64 because unless you’re raising a child, you don’t qualify for Medicaid,” Black said. “They fall between the cracks. They were sent to my table and we charge them on a sliding scale.”

A pocket of people in the county need Medicaid but can’t qualify, Black said.

Priselac asked Bailey and Redding to find data about people who could qualify for the services of Medicaid but are not enrolled.

Those people who qualify for Medicaid but are not enrolled are accounted for among the numbers for the uninsured in Citrus County, which was 16.6 percent. Beaty presented recent data from Citrus Memorial’s billing regarding an increase in uninsured patients.

“Over the past couple of years, the self-pay component (uninsured) of our revenues has fluctuated between six-and-a-half and seven percent,” Beaty said. “In December, it moved up to 8.5 percent. Self-pay is about 98 percent no-pay. It started about six months ago bumping up and coming down. I don’t know if it’s a trend, if it will continue, it’s going to be flat or what. But I would say that that type of data probably means that the data you’ve got here from 2011 may not be really germane at this moment.”

The next meeting on Feb. 15 will review community input results from focus groups and surveys and begin strategic planning.

 

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