Beilenson refocuses effort to boost enrollment for Healthy Howard Plan

January 06, 2009|By Larry Carson

Stung by criticism from a County Council member that Howard County's new health access plan has enrolled too few residents, officials are refocusing their efforts to find more people who qualify.

Dr. Peter L. Beilenson, the county health officer, said yesterday that to ensure continued political support for the Healthy Howard Plan, he is seeking residents who do not have health insurance and who do not qualify for any existing program.

The program seeks to provide access to health care to each of the estimated 20,000 limited-income residents who have no insurance. But in October, the first month of enrollment, all but 66 of the 1,100 who applied would have qualified for existing programs. That drew criticism from County Councilman Greg Fox, who suggested that Beilenson did not do enough research before launching the program, which is funded in part with $500,000 of county money.

Beilenson said he wants to forestall such criticism in a time of widespread economic problems. "I don't want to be concerned about people questioning using $500,000," he said.

Beilenson said he is seeking community college students, residents of subsidized housing, contractual employees and others who earn incomes that are too high for existing programs but too low to afford insurance.

Healthy Howard provides access to doctors and specialists for a nominal monthly fee, but it is not an insurance program. The goal was to enroll up to 2,200 people the first year, though Beilenson said 1,500 would be "defensible."

"The sad thing about the quotes raised by Councilman Fox is that we're solely focusing on Healthy Howard for the next two months and not on other programs," Beilenson said. Fox also criticized Beilenson's latest move. "The reality is, if there were that many people who need this program, they should have been lined up. He's got 66," Fox said.

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