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More people expected to need Medical Assistance

BY Sarah smith

An onslaught of medical assistance cases will soon flood Hubbard County as the Affordable Care Act is implemented.

And county Social Service agencies will be swamped, the Hubbard County Board learned Tuesday.

Daryl Bessler, Hubbard County Social Services Director

“That’s exactly what’s going on,” Social Services Director Daryl Bessler said in an interview Thursday.

“It’s a state-sponsored ,county-administered system,” Bessler added. “We have the responsibility to handle them. They come our way, we handle them.”

The Department of Human Services has warned Hubbard County it could see 900 to 1,100 more individuals as MinnesotaCare clients are transitioned to Medical Assistance programs.

Because most cases involve two people, that equates to more than 450 cases. Currently Hubbard County eligibility workers have crushing caseloads of 234 each.

“They are telling us their estimates are 928 additional individuals. They’re telling us to use two people on a case given the composition of the cases which puts us at another 464 cases for eligibility workers to make determinations on,” Bessler said.

He came before the board to ask for at least one more eligibility worker.

Income levels have been raised to qualify for MA and assets will no longer be taken into consideration.

More people will be eligible, Bessler expects, perhaps many more.

A Department of Human Services memo to Social Service agencies said, “This proposal assumes the expansion will move 53,000 average monthly enrollees from MinnesotaCare to MA in Fiscal Year 2015 and will add an additional 34,000 average monthly MA enrollees who are currently uninsured.

“We asked the board to allow us to hire one person for this, a go-slow approach instead of getting crazy about hiring and see what our needs are,” Bessler said.

“Hennepin County has estimated (hiring) between 50 and 110 people, St. Louis County got authorization to hire 29, Ramsey County’s first round is looking at 20, Dakota County was 14,” he said.

“These are things I don’t believe people were necessarily anticipating,” Bessler added. “We didn’t really know what our role would be back in December.”

Eventually, Bessler said, a computerized system would allow applicants to fill out online forms and learn of their eligibility almost immediately.

“Down the way that’s where we’re headed,” he said. “It will be far more efficient but we’re not there.”

Tribes are positioning themselves to take over MA, Bessler said, when asked what other counties are doing. But he said he hasn’t had the opportunity to discuss the staffing situation to any degree with neighboring counties.

“Minnesota is trying to get its health care exchange going to start taking applications for Oct. 1,” Bessler said in the Thursday interview. (Because of the changed day of county board meetings the Enterprise is not able to attend much of the Tuesday meetings.)

Another issue is that the staff additions come at mid-year without the department being able to budget for the increase.

“They’re attempting to get the feds to give 75 percent of your cost, salaries and fringe” (benefits), Bessler said.

But eventually, the MA program will save the state money.

“People may not have the option of staying on MinnesotaCare,” he said. “You’re going to be rolled over to MA. That will bring a lot of federal money in. That’s going to save the state because the feds are going to pick up 100 percent eventually.

“There’s a real incentive for states to roll those cases over because you’ll be able to get the federal money.”

The board took no action on his request to hire. Instead, members scheduled a special work session May 13 at 9 a.m. to discuss the upcoming changes.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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