Belshan questions HMO approach

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 11, 1999

A progress report on Freeborn County’s participation in managed care planning led one commissioner to ask if the effort was worth it.

Monday, October 11, 1999

A progress report on Freeborn County’s participation in managed care planning led one commissioner to ask if the effort was worth it.

Email newsletter signup

At Thursday’s Social Services Board meeting, Commissioner Dan Belshan said he’d like to see the county withdraw from plans currently in the works. The plans, the Southern Minnesota Health Initiative and the Southern County Health Alliance, are multi-county ventures to provide HMO-like care for people currently receiving public health care.

SMHI is aimed at people with disabilities, while SCHA is geared toward current medical assistance recipients.

With both initiatives expected to be operating next year, Belshan said he’s worried too much time and money is being invested in something that could lead to future problems.

&uot;Things have changed since this thing was first discussed,&uot; he said.

With federal patients’ rights legislation in the works, Belshan said he’s worried liability is increasing for HMOs and could cause problems for the multi-county efforts.

Darryl Meyer, director of Freeborn County Department of Human Services, said he knows other county boards have shared similar concerns, but are also continuing with the planning process.

&uot;I would expect that the joint powers board would not take that final step for initialization until that and other possible risks are assessed,&uot; he said of the SMHI board. But, Meyer also noted there are risks in doing nothing.

Any county not coordinating its own managed care plan for public medical services will fall under the state’s plan for such services.

&uot;It’s not a choice of is there going to be managed care; the question is who will run it?&uot; Meyer said.

Commissioner Brian Jordahl noted that some counties are already facing problems in dealing with the state’s system of providing medical care.

&uot;I think it’s premature to make any decision at this time,&uot; he said.

But, Belshan questioned how commissioners would know when it was the right time to pull out if goals aren’t being met.

Meyer said the two factors in deciding to participate in the multi-county planning were a desire for the county to have local management of care provided and the ability to coordinate local services. He said neither goal can be achieved, or assessed, until after the systems are operating in the county.

Currently, Section 8 certificates issued in Albert Lea can only be used in city limits.

Meyer said extending the service would give residents a larger choice of housing.

Colette Turcotte, director of Freeborn County’s Community Action Agency, agreed the need to extend the boundaries was there.

She said Albert Lea currently has approximately 32 Section 8 vouchers available, but no way to use them.

&uot;There is no place to go with them,&uot; said Turcotte.

While the county could run its Section 8 program, Meyer said it would likely be more efficient for the city to expand its program and have the county pay the added expense.

Commissioner Dan Belshan said he needed more information and requested the measure be delayed two weeks to allow Meyer and Turcotte to develop a report on the issue.

Meyer said much of the final outcome of the proposed project will depend on city participation, including whether or not the Section 8 expansion would apply to only mental health patients or all eligible residents.