County to hire 24 employees to help implement health care act

dsneed@thetribunenews.comAugust 13, 2013 

Faced with “galloping incompetence” by the state of California, the San Luis Obispo County Social Services Department will soon be gearing up to administer a massive overhaul of the health care system, its director told county supervisors Tuesday.

Lee Collins, Social Services director, said the county will hire 24 new employees and spend $2.2 million in state and federal grant money each year for the next two years in order to implement the federal Affordable Care Act.

“It’s a massive undertaking,” he said.

Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to accept the grant money and add it to the county’s budget. This will allow the Social Services Department to begin the process of hiring the 24 new employees.

The program, also known as Obamacare, will require that everyone be covered by health insurance whether it is through employers, expanded Medi-Cal coverage or private exchanges set up by the state.

Collins said that a combination of foot-dragging and tinkering by the state Department of Health Care Services has slowed implementation of the program. For example, state and county computer programs used to sign up new enrollees have not been interfaced so information has to be entered twice, once into each system.

Based on state estimates, Collins is expecting 9,179 county residents to apply for Medi-Cal starting Oct. 1. Of that, 6,700 are expected to be accepted. An additional 999 county residents are expected to sign up for the state insurance exchanges called Covered California.

People can begin signing up for coverage Oct. 1, and the program will go into effect Jan. 1, 2014.

Most of the 24 new employees will be developing and staffing a call center that will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., six days a week, Monday through Saturday. The workers will determine the eligibility of residents and enroll them for Medi-Cal or the state insurance program.

The program is expected to be stable for this fiscal year and next, Collins said. After that, the state will evaluate the workload and make funding adjustments to counties accordingly.

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