Commission hears rural health care troubles
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.
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.