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When seeking health care, insurance coverage typically opens doors. But the local health department is renewing its focus on the uninsured because of its own lack of funding.
As a result of a continued series of state budget cuts, Lincoln Trail District Health Department now reserves certain services for patients without health insurance.
Women with insurance who are seeking family planning and breast and cervical cancer screenings now are referred elsewhere. The health department no longer can afford to serve a broad number of clients, Executive Director Linda Sims said.
Helping people who cannot afford treatment elsewhere was the department’s “original mission,” Sims said, but over the years, it began accepting more individuals. Its practices are changing because the department has experienced budget cuts every year since 2008, including a $500,000 reduction this year, she said.
The department scaled back services to the insured. Women who belong to households that fall within 250 percent of the federal poverty guideline also can receive services at the health department.
Family planning services, which include contraception and education and counseling services, remain open to all teenagers, she said.
“That’s the responsible thing to do with public health,” she said.
Sims said patients who have insurance are a minority at the health department, less than 20 percent of those served according to her estimate.
Michelle Murphy, marketing director for Hardin Memorial Health, said she thinks the hospital and community physicians can absorb any new potential patients who previously received services at the health department.
Murphy said the hospital often sees patients who are underinsured, where insurance covers services but the patient first must meet a significant deductible. Murphy emphasized patient financial services at the hospital can help those struggling with medical bills.
The health department ensures they are serving those who live within their service area by requiring proof of residence and proof of income, according to a news release.
Another change in funding requirements has led the health department to more customization of its programs. Sims said that allows staff to offer what they consider most beneficial to the area. Sims said the department is looking at partnership possibilities, including with Hardin Memorial Health.
Murphy said the hospital and health department have a close relationship and often work together, especially with diabetes education.
“We work in tandem with a lot of projects,” Murphy said.
Kelly Cantrall can be reached at (270) 505-1747 or email@example.com.