Officials want Eagle County designated ‘medically underserved’
Eagle County, CO Colorado
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” Jill Hunsaker, Eagle County public health manager, is 90 percent sure the county will be designated “medically underserved” by the federal government.
The county has been working with a consultant to apply for the designation, which would make it available for federal funding to build a public health center to treat uninsured and underinsured people in the county.
“I’m fairly confident,” Hunsaker said.
The designation would also allow the area to get grants to hire doctors and be eligible to collect more from Medicare and Medicaid cases.
Vail Valley Medical Center hired the consultant to study the county and gather statistics for the application to the government.
One statistic in particular stuck out at Hunsaker. Only two out of the 48 doctors offices in the county accept Medicaid and only two will see patients who don’t have insurance, she said.
“It was surprising to me ” I think that will put us over the edge,” Hunsaker said. “I knew we had a lack of providers that accepted Medicaid, but I didn’t know it was that few.”
The hospital and county plan to submit the application making the case for the designation to the federal government sometime in the next two months. They should know within 90 days whether the government will deem Eagle County medically underserved, Hunsaker said.
The federal designation and health care clinic would be a big boost the county’s health care options.
“It allows us to really expand indigent health care services in Eagle County,” she said. “Maybe even double them.”
The county is also lacking in dental care, Hunsaker said. No dentist in Eagle County accepts Medicaid, she said.
The public health center would act as a nonprofit organization.
“We’ve all got an interest in it because it keeps people healthier and keeps people out of the emergency rooms,” Hunsaker said.
If the county is designated medically underserved, officials would immediately begin working on a business plan for a health care center. The plan would include a location, the number of staff needed and the number of patients the clinic could handle.
“A community health center is really what it sounds like,” Hunsaker said. “We’ll see anyone without turning them away.”
Commissioner Sara Fisher has said getting the federal designation that would make a public health clinic possible is one of her priorities for 2009.
“People who are uninsured or underinsured have a difficult time receiving services locally,” Fisher said. “People then unfortunately rather than seeking medical attention when they need it wait until it’s too late.”
Staff Writer Chris Outcalt can be reached at 970-748-2931 or email@example.com.