Com­mis­sion hears ru­ral health care trou­bles

Record Observer - - News - By MIKE DAVIS mdavis@kibay­times.com

CEN­TRE­VILLE — Mary­land health care pro­fes­sion­als tasked with de­liv­er­ing solutions to the state’s ru­ral health care de­liv­ery is­sues lis­tened on June 6 to Queen Anne’s County res­i­dents voice their opin­ions and con­cerns about the state of care in Mary­land.

With the pas­sage of Se­nate Bill 707 dur­ing the 2016 Gen­eral Assem­bly ses­sion that, in part, cre­ated the Ru­ral Health Care De­liver y Work Group, med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als have gath­ered for the past eight months to dis­cuss how best to de­liver ru­ral health care. The Ru­ral Health Care De­liv­ery Work Group is chaired by Queen Anne’s County Health Di­rec­tor Dr. Joseph Ciotola and Deb­o­rah Mizeur. Both were cho­sen by the Mary­land Health Care Com­mis­sion.

Through­out June, public hear­ings were held in the five-county Mid-Shore re­gion— Kent, Dorch­ester, Queen Anne’s, Tal­bot and Caro­line coun­ties — where com­mu­nity mem­bers had the op­por­tu­nity to ex­plain their con­cerns, chal­lenges and ad­van­tages of ru­ral health care de­liv­ery.

Ben St­ef­fen, an ap­pointee of the Mary­land Health Care Com­mis­sion, said the work group was tasked with com­ing up with rec­om­men­da­tions to be pre­sented to the Gen­eral Assem­bly in the fall with a fo­cus on four ar­eas: eco­nomic devel­op­ment and how it sup­ports health care sys­tems in ru­ral ar­eas, sup­port for vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tions, sup­port­ing the health care work­force, and trans­porta­tion.

“Health care is chang­ing and some­times it moves a lit­tle faster than we would like, and as we move to a more am­bu­la­tory health care sys­tem some­times we don’t think about what the con­se­quences are for all com­mu­ni­ties and the work of the leg­is­la­ture in 2016 re­ally was, I think, very con­struc­tive in pro­vid­ing a frame­work for ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties to have a more ef­fec­tive voice in how their health care sys­tems evolve.”

In the new county of­fice build­ing across from Queen Anne’s County High School, four res­i­dents ex­pressed their con­cerns to work group mem­bers.

For Don Trot­ter, a health in­sur­ance bro­ker, the health in­sur­ance in­dus­try needs to look out­side the box for solutions to what he called the fail­ing Af­ford­able Care Act.

“As a bro­ker I was in fa­vor of it,” he said. “I felt we should be able to of­fer plans that we could of­fer to the en­tire com­mu­nity across the coun­try, but they just got to a point where they’re just not af­ford­able any longer.”

Trot­ter said he used to sell an in­sur­ance plan prior to the ACA to a fam­ily for $500 a month and would make about $1,200 through­out the year if paid by the in­sur­ance com­pany. When United Health Care was pro­vid­ing in­sur­ance in Mary­land, Trot­ter said, it was pay­ing $24 per per­son on the ap­pli­ca­tion, so he “didn’t take too much of a hit.” Trot­ter said Care First paid $16 a month per ap­pli­ca­tion and once United Health Care pulled out of the mar­ket it went down to $12 an ap­pli­ca­tion.

Al Helfen­bein of Helfen­bein In­sur­ance Agency Inc. agreed with Trot­ter that health care prices have be­come one of the great­est chal­lenges. “We have to ab­so­lutely at­tack the health care cost,” he said.

Helfen­bein em­pha­sized the im­por­tance of keep­ing the qual­ity of care needed with lower costs.

For Mary Margaret Revel Good­win of Cen­tre­ville reach­ing the pop­u­la­tions that most need the help, in par­tic­u­lar the se­niors, she said, should be a pri­or­ity. She said bet­ter ways of com­mu­ni­cat­ing in­for­ma­tion need to be found to reach se­niors as well as young adults.

“Be­fore we can set out grand plans, be­fore you look at any­thing else, you need to fig­ure out how to con­tact peo­ple,” Good­win said.

Daphne Young, co-owner of Seren­ity En­hance­ment Cen­ter LLC in Cen­tre­ville, said trans­porta­tion is a ma­jor is­sue. With par­tic­i­pants aged mainly 55 and older from Gra­sonville to Sudlersville, staff drive ev­ery day to pick up many of the par­tic­i­pants. She said they are spend­ing hours on the road trans­port­ing peo­ple when that time could be used for so­cial­iza­tion and stim­u­la­tion.

An­other con­cern Young brought up was the lo­ca­tion and avail­abil­ity of spe­cial­ized doctors. She said par­tic­i­pants have to travel to Easton to re­ceive ser­vices. Young rec­og­nized that re­cruit­ment of physi­cians can be chal­leng­ing in ru­ral ar­eas, but the need is great.

With par­tic­i­pants who have men­tal health is­sues, Young said “they need the men­tal health just as much as they need the phys­i­cal health.”

For more in­for­ma­tion about the Mary­land Health Care Com­mis­sion, visit mhcc.mary­land.gov and search “Work­groups” un­der the quick links.

PHOTO BY MIKE DAVIS

Mary Margaret Rev­ell Good­win said dur­ing a public hear­ing re­gard­ing the de­liv­ery of ru­ral health care that bet­ter com­mu­ni­ca­tion meth­ods are needed to reach the in­tended au­di­ences.

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