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Medicare enrollment streamlined for children

Joshua Sebold
Staff Writer


At an October meeting, Plumas County Public Health Director Mimi Hall told the Board of Supervisors her department automatically enrolls children receiving free lunch at schools in MediCal.

Hall said the effort began when a 2008 research report, written in collaboration with the Sierra Institute, supported her department’s previous assumptions about a lack of healthcare coverage.

“We have too many people in our communities, both in the state and in our county, who are uninsured, underinsured or sometimes spend half the year insured and not insured,” she reported.

“That lack of healthcare coverage isn’t just having an impact on the individuals. It’s also having an impact on the viability of our local district hospitals.”

The department head said Eastern Plumas Health Care in particular was “struggling with cash flow.”

The board heard that the hospital’s ideal goal was to have 30 days’ cash on hand but struggled to have one day’s cash on hand.

Hall’s department has focused on increasing enrollment in MediCal and Medicare by making it a priority in many different but related efforts without expending extra funds specifically for that purpose.

Part of the effort was something called “express enrollment” that allows certain public entities to share eligibility information.

Hall indicated she “changed the federal school lunch application to actually serve as a MediCal application,” because “every child who’s eligible for free school lunch is eligible for MediCal.”

There are many kinks to be worked out, but in the first six weeks of school, 36 children were enrolled in MediCal through the program.

“When they turn in their school lunch application, within five days they get a benefits card in the mail.

“We contact these families and we assist them in getting permanent coverage. So it’s not just those 36 kids because those 36 kids also have parents and family members.”

Apart from that program, Hall’s department is preparing for the changes that will come with federal health reform.

She said much was still unknown, but there would be considerable healthcare funding for prevention. Funds for rural health and local health departments are slated to arrive in 2011.

Chairwoman Sherrie Thrall commended Hall for the department’s work on health coverage. “I know you’ll continue to be on the cutting edge of all of these things because you always have been, and I think that’s why you’ve managed to stay funded as well as you have through the last couple years.”

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