Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Throwing More Money at Healthy Howard Access Plan

The Healthy Howard Access Plan is a plan that helps individuals or families gain access to comprehensive health insurance and health coaching. The plan fees run on a scale with income and can run from $50 to $115 per month. According to this Baltimore Sun report, to date, the County has 200 people enrolled in the program and 250 pending applications for an unknown number of people. That currently is less than 10% of the stated year one goal of enrolling 2200 people in the program.

Around 2500 other folks that have enrolled in the service have been referred to other programs at the state and national level that could help them instead. Many of them are children.

The County has not met its enrollment goals for the program, but combining referrals and health coaching to encourage proactive health monitoring may save the County lots of money over time.

Also, there is a $500,000 grant from the Horizon Foundation for the program that is yet unspent.

These are the facts that framed the County Council debate on spending another half million dollars on the program for FY2010. Councilman Greg Fox opposed that amount of money and sought to cut the funding by half given the program's enrollment challenges. He was soundly defeated.

Fox's message resonates with my feeling that Healthy Howard could do wonders for the county as a public health awareness program. It can achieve its goals by being a combination of a referral service and a program that educates the HoCo public about the importance of not being reactionary when it comes to health. The combination will help prevent very expensive emergency room visits, skipping out on those bills, and having that cost passed on to the insured in the County.

Healthy Howard does not have to be a gateway to local insurance plans. It can be effective with the stated mission above and not have to spend $1 million this year to do it.