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.


  1. What irritates me is that when Greg Fox asked if the county funding could be reduced because the Horizon Foundation money is unspent, Explore Howard reported that Beilenson pushed back and argued that “pools of money must be held in reserve in case enrollees incur unexpectedly heavy medical expenses or are diagnosed with serious illnesses.”

    Here is my problem with that: if the HHAP plan is not insurance, and if it has only 200 enrollees, why in the name of Zeus do they need so much money in cash sitting around for medical expenses?

  2. Exactly right. Believe me, there are many in county government who very much dislike what Ken Ulman has been doing. As soon as he took office, he started hiring new staff positions, creating new offices... and county employees, like myself, were worried how fast he was spending money. The problem is, county employees don't matter. We need the County Council and other community groups to stand up against Ulman and his wasteful spending. Wishful thinking...

  3. Mr. or Mrs. County Employee,

    Is it safe to assume that you were at lunch or taking the day off when you posted your comment during regular business hours? If not, you just undercut your own argument about waste in government.

  4. What did you expect from a guy who claimed he was "Secretary of the Cabinet" under Glendening and still rides the coattails of his Racing Commissioner father?

  5. Fox is a political hack and hypocrite. If Ulman's for it, he's against it. He doesn't seem to mind funding other county non-profits, many of which serve even fewer people than Healthy Howard.

  6. Anon 8:46- I call B.S. on your comment. Name one non profit that gets county funding that serves fewer people than the 600ish folks enrolled in Healthy Howard Access Plan, and tell us how much funding that non-profit gets and how many people they help.