DCHD looks to make dent

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With the addition of three new programs, Denton County Health Department officials are hoping to make a dent in the number of low-income residents going without diabetes care and immunizations.

The programs were developed through the federal 1115 Medicaid Waiver, which gives states more flexibility to provide health care for those eligible for Medicaid.

These programs will help give residents diabetes care, timely immunizations and other indigent care they would otherwise go without.

“If you know some diabetics, you know often they go undiagnosed for a long time or they get diagnosed but they feel good so they don’t do what the doctor says,” Denton County Health director Bing Burton told the Commissioners Court on Tuesday morning. “We believe if we register people who have diabetes and work with them and case-manage them, contact them on a weekly basis and encourage them to do what they need to do, this system can be a win-win-win-win.”

The plan is for Denton County to initiate the diabetes program by employing a team of five staff members to work closely with low-income diabetics and keep them following doctor’s orders and prevent potential hospitalizations for care.

Burton also said that his office would be happy to work with other Denton County physicians if they wanted the assistance.

“It’s a win because we’re going to manage health care for the county citizens who need it, and because the [federal government] will fund it,” Burton said. “By doing this we will cut down on our indigent healthcare expenses and the feds will reimburse us more than what we spend. And they will reimburse us more than we spend because they know it will save a lot of money in the long run.”

The program staff will consist of a manager, two case managers and two health educators. All program costs will be reimbursed, so that there would be no ultimate cost to Denton County.

A Tuesday vote was necessary to demonstrate that the county is prepared to move forward with the program, though final approval is not expected until March or April and no cost will be incurred until that approval is received.

Funding for this initiative is estimated at $177,447 for salaries and benefits based on an April 1, 2013, hire date. Additional funds are included for travel, training, equipment, supplies, etc., at a total of $38,600. The new positions would be created but not filled until that approval comes through.

In addition to the diabetes program, commissioners approved two other initiatives connected to the 1115 Medicaid Waiver.

One of them makes vaccines for diseases that include the flu, hepatitis A and B, shingles, pneumonia and bacterial meningitis available to low-income adult residents.

The third program potentially allows the county to be reimbursed more from the federal government for the indigent care it provides to Medicaid patients, Burton said.

County Judge Mary Horn said that the waiver ultimately would be a benefit to Denton County residents and hospitals providing the services.

“It has taken some time and study just to figure out how it is all supposed to work, but I think it will be a better way to do things,” she said. “I think it’s going to be good. Any time you try something new, especially when you’re talking those dollar amounts, you want to get things right.”

BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875. His e-mail address is blewis@dentonrc.com .


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