Uninsured, low-income Maryland residents may soon be able to use a Web-based computer program to find out which health programs they are eligible for and apply to them all at once, under a state program being tried out by Howard County health officials.
Howard used a state grant to buy the half-million-dollar software about two years ago, but has now modified it to both instantly determine a person's eligibility and allow application to several programs — without having to repeat the same personal information on multiple applications to various state and federal agencies.
The program, the "Door to Health Care," began operating this week in consolidated space at the Howard County Health Department's Columbia offices. Health Officer Dr. Peter L. Beilenson created a separate entrance and interview area using existing staff at a cost of $12,000 per year, he said.
"There are so many people in need who don't know where to go to get what they need," County Executive Ken Ulman said.
Beilenson said the program, originally purchased for the county's Healthy Howard program for uninsured residents, could also be useful when new federal health care insurance exchanges begin operating in 2014.
According to Glenn Schneider, the departing director of health policy and planning under Beilenson, the original program told people what programs they are eligible for but didn't allow a smooth process for applying for aid. "This is kind of the new, improved version," he said.
Richard M. Krieg, president and CEO of the Columbia-based Horizon Foundation, said "it's really a step ahead" in providing access to health care.
Schneider said he is leaving the health department and starting work next month as chief of programs for Horizon, which specializes in health innovations.