Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Health Howard Health Plan is so far a flop

The Healthy Howard Access Plan is off to a pathetic start. Enrollment has been open since October 1, and out of over 1,100 applicants, only 45 have qualified. That is about one-half of one percent. Interestingly, 1,080 of the applicants were disqualified from HHAP because they qualified for government sponsored health insurance, such as Medicaid. These enrollment numbers are really quite dismal because HHAP was released with a good deal of fanfare and good publicity.

Although it is not insurance, the intent of the program is to give the uninsured access to basic health care. For a small monthly fee, you get access to something like six doctor visits a year, discounted prescription drugs, a draconian health coach to boss you around, etc. The $2.8 million program is funded with $500,000 of tax money, and the rest of the funding comes primarily from participant fees.

It seems likely that Ulman, Beilenson and friends really did not understand the needs of the people they were trying to help and were naive in developing this program. Beilenson is proud of the fact that over 1,000 residents were enrolled in health insurance programs as a result of their application to HHAP, but that is no metric in which to measure the success of HHAP. That is moving the goal posts pretty darn far.

One could argue that the state of the economy will increase enrollment, but I believe that you have to be without health insurance for a year before you qualify for the program. That does not do much for someone who loses their job today. Maybe that rule will be changed to try and salvage the plan, but I recall that rule was put in place because they were afraid small private employers would drop coverage and encourage their employees to enroll.

Greg Fox is calling for as much money to be cut from the program as possible. This time next year, I predict there will be serious discussion of pulling the plug altogether or wildly reworking the concept.


Anonymous said...

Do you really believe that over 1,000 people getting insured is a flop? I think it’s a wild success that the county only has to pay for about 50 people and gets the state or feds to pick up the tab for 1,000 given the program’s goal was to expand affordable health care. That sounds expanded and fiscally efficient for the county!

Freemarket said...

Yes, the Healthy Howard Access Plan has and continues to be a complete flop. This time next year, I will be very curious to compute the average cost to the taxpayer per family enrolled in the HHAP. We’ll see how fiscally efficient it is for the county.