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Thursday, August 1, 2013

Healthy Howard Program transitions

    Howard County was on the leading edge of providing health care to its citizens with the development of the Healthy Howard Program begun in 2009.   There has been a recognition that County citizens were without health care coverage for a variety of reasons.  Many worked for companies that didn't provide health care coverage, some were unaware of health care programs they could access or they may have had too much income for some of the public programs.  Healthy Howard was designed to increase the awareness of the programs available and to provide access to health care for people who found themselves ineligible for the most common programs such as Medical Assistance, Primary Adult Care (PAC) and Maryland Children's Health Program.  In 2012 of the 6000 people who were screened about 4000 or two thirds were enrolled in one of the health care plans.
    In its initial year of operation the health care part of Healthy Howard enrolled 515 members.  Enrollment was on a monthly basis so members could stop enrollment any month.  Of the 515 members, 333 remained members at the end of the first year.  The health care plan partnered with a variety of health care providers to provide their services pro bono or at greatly reduced fees.  Some of these partners were Howard County General Hospital, Chase Brexton Health Care, American Radiology, Cardiology Services of Central Maryland and Wilmer Eye Institute.
    With the passage of the Affordable Health Care Act (i.e. "Obamacare") Healthy Howard has begun its transition out of the health care delivery component at the first of this year.  No new members have been enrolled since the first of the year and the existing members will be transitioned to one of the health care insurance plans under the Maryland Health Care Exchange.  Enrollment in those plans will begin October 1st and the new coverages will begin January 1. 2014.  Maryland has been one of the most active states in getting its health care exchange up and operating in a timely fashion.  Maryland has also agreed to accept federal dollars to expand the eligibility for Medical Assistance to increase the number of people eligible for this program. Unfortunately, other less progressive states have shortchanged their citizens available health care options for political reasons.  Not surprisingly many of these states have some of the highest levels of uninsured residents in the Country.
   As Healthy Howard transitions from offering a health care program it will develop a new "Connector" program in 6 Maryland jurisdictions. It was selected for this role in a competitive process.  The jurisdictions are Howard, Carroll, Washington, Allegany, Garrett and Frederick.  This is a role that they have been providing in Howard County since 2011 in its Door to Health Care in conjunction with the Howard County Health Department.  The Connector program will partner with 12 different organizations in these jurisdictions.  These partners have connections with the people who are most likely to need enrollment in the various health care options.  Examples of these organizations are local Health Departments, Departments of Social Services, Community Action Agencies, libraries and faith based organizations.
   As mentioned above many of the states with the highest number of uninsured residents are the ones with the most opposition to the Affordable Health Care Act.  Not surprisingly Massachusetts with its "Romneycare" has the most residents with health insurance.  Maryland is number eight for enrollment.  Worst states are Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, Mississippi and Alaska.

   Want to know how "Romneycare" is doing six years out?  Click here.

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