Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Low-Cost Health Program Under the Gun

Only about 200 people have joined an ambitious Howard County, MD, program to provide low-cost preventive medical care to uninsured residents, prompting local officials to consider cutting funds for the program.

Healthy Howard is a network of local doctors who charge members between $50 and $115 monthly for comprehensive medical coverage. The program uses health coaches to improve residents' overall health and seeks to lower costs related to emergency care over time. The intital goal was to have 2,000 enrolees in the first year, which began in October 2008. That prediction has been revised to 980 enrolees by July 2010.

County council member Greg Fox questioned if the enrollment level justifies a second county outlay of $500,000 for the program in fiscal year 2010, adding that he supports cutting county funding in half for the program in that year. Supporters of the program, however, say it needs more time and money in order to succeed, noting that enrollees have been seeing doctors through the program only since January. Commonwealth Fund President Karen Davis notes that the program has also helped 2,500 county residents - including children - find coverage through state and federal insurance programs.


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