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Better indigent care worthy goal

Denton County Health Department officials said this week they hope the addition of three new programs will help make a dent in the number of low-income residents going without diabetes care and immunizations, and we believe the plan deserves support.

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

Denton County health director Bing Burton told the Commissioners Court on Tuesday morning that the programs would provide diabetes care, timely immunizations and other indigent care that residents would otherwise go without.

“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,” Burton said.

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

The plan is a winner because it will help manage health care for county residents who need it, and the federal government will provide funding, Burton said.

“By doing this we will cut down on our indigent health care expenses and the feds will reimburse us more than what we spend,” he said. “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, although final approval is not expected until March or April and no cost will be incurred until that approval is received, officials said.

In addition to the diabetes program, commissioners approved two other initiatives connected to the 1115 Medicaid Waiver. One makes vaccines for diseases including the flu, hepatitis A and B, shingles, pneumonia and bacterial meningitis available to low-income adult residents, and the other potentially allows the county to be reimbursed more from the federal government for the indigent care it provides to Medicaid patients.

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

We appreciate the efforts of county officials who have invested a lot of time and study on this project.

We believe such programs could help Denton County residents lead healthier, more productive lives and are excellent examples of what can be accomplished with a proactive approach to health care.