EATON — According to Becky Sorrell, Director of Job and Family Services (JFS), the State of Ohio is looking at taking Medicaid transportation away from local control.
Sorrell attended the Preble County Commissioner’s meeting on Wednesday, May 24.
During her monthly meeting with the board, Sorrell shared that she had attended the Directors Conference in Columbus where she got to meet with the new Medicaid Director Barbara Sears.
“As you guys know, we’ve had a lot of struggles with the system,” Sorrell said. “One of the things they left alone is the Medicaid transportation. The actual term for that is NET transportation. The state is looking at taking that program away from local control and making it a state contract. They will contract with the vendors who do the transportation.
“In my mind, what that means is that it will be the same transportation that the folks who receive managed care like CareSource or Molina get, which is terrible. They don’t get transported, they’re late, they just don’t get picked up at all, and I am very fearful that will affect Preble County very badly.
“The big cities that already have bus and transit services, it’s not really going to affect those,” she said. “Our rural community, it is really going to affect negatively and I am worried about it.”
Commissioner Denise Robertson added, “And anytime there’s a problem, if it’s at a local level, you can pick up the phone and call. You call the big companies and you’re going to get on some sort of automated whatever and you’re not going to get to talk to somebody who can do something.”
“In addition to that, I’m concerned about the financial impact it will have on Council on Aging,” Sorrell said. “Since we renewed our contract with them they’ve done some things with the understanding that we would have Medicaid transportation and the ability to contract with them. I am planning on sending an email soon to Barbara Sears and making her aware of my concerns for the local community, but I think that we’re too far along in the process for the state to back out of it.
“I just wanted you guys to know so you’re aware if you have the opportunity to say something about medicaid transportation,” she said.
“I wouldn’t say that it’s a done deal, but we do need to stay on top of it,” Commissioner Chris Day said.
“NET Transportation has previously been left under Job and Family Services and they just moved it into the Department of Medicaid. Which, they can easily make changes without there being a legislative change. That’s why I’m concerned about the program,” Sorrell explained. “Along the same lines, Sears talked about implementing work requirements for Medicaid recipients.
“We haven’t gotten anything definitive about that, but it could potentially mean we are going to need more employees soon to handle that, because we are not equipped right now to do work requirements for that number of people,” Sorrell said. “I am not necessarily opposed to the proposition, but it takes a lot of time to track work requirements as it is, and we have food stamp and cash work requirements already, adding additional would mean I would need another staff member to help with that.
“We struggle to find places to house our workers now, it always has to be a nonprofit institution, and in this county we just don’t have enough. If I put somebody at EMA, they have to be their supervisor.”
Commissioner Robertson questioned, “Is it a job that you have to find them? Or could they work 20 hours at McDonald’s and still get their Medicaid, because they’re underinsured at McDonald’s?”
“They could,” Sorrell responded. “Those people wouldn’t be required. People who are working or could work at McDonald’s won’t be required. People who are not required will have to work. Just like our food stamp folks. We have to find them a work experience site and if they don’t go, then we sanction them. It doesn’t just require organizing a work site for them, it requires collecting their time sheets, following up with sanctions, and following up with closing their cases.”
“Why can’t we put that back on them?” Robertson asked. “They are the ones losing the benefits, so to me it should be up to them.”
“Especially for the small rural counties, we don’t have the staff or the ability to place these people easily or readily,” Commissioner Day responded. “That’s the argument that when we’re sitting around the table we have — this is a bad idea overall, because we understand that these are the people that don’t have the initiative and you have to do that, but now you’re asking us to add a whole new member.”
“The majority of people who are only receiving Medicaid, they’re not receiving cash or food stamps, only receiving Medicaid, they have to get an income somewhere. Typically, it’s disability. So, then we’re counting their disability, and how long are they going to be disabled, and what’s their doctor going to say they are able to do? So, even though they may be able to work, it’s still a process to make sure we have everything,” Sorrell explained.
Sorrell also provided the Job and Family Services data for April, noting that the numbers for each month stay roughly the same. She added, for April there were 409 visitors to the Job Center, 281 cash recipients, and 4,049 food stamp recipients. Those numbers do not change much month from month, she said.
For Children Services, there were 53 referrals for the month, of which Sorrell said, “That is not unusual because of school.” There were 115 kids in open cases, at the time of Sorrell’s report. She added, 62 of those kids are placed with family members. The cost of placement for April was $111,000.
“The cost of placement is steadily reducing,” Sorrell said. “We try to keep the number of kids in higher cost placements down. Using different kinds of upfront initiatives, like the SAFE team, which we’ve used all along. We also are working on amending a contract with Agape. So that they can use some preservation upfront also, so that will help keep those down.”
She also shared some notes she has received. “I know you guys here all the complaints about us,” she said. “We just happen to get a couple of letters this month, which is unusual. Thanking us for what we’ve done or about how what we’ve done has affected somebody. I wanted to provide you with copies of those. I just wanted you to be aware that sometimes people say nice things about us.”
Commissioner Rodney Creech replied, “I don’t think you’re in the business to get a lot of compliments. Unfortunately, you’re not going to get praise.”
“That’s true. We do help people and that is our goal,” Sorrell said. “Our motivation. Lots of time people will thank us verbally, but we rarely get it in writing.”
Commissioner Day explained, “You’re touching people in crisis and a lot of people have never been in that position and they don’t know how to handle it. They think the world is coming to an end. They have to figure out that there are ways to fix that. Some people just aren’t built that way.”
“That’s exactly right,” Sorrell said. “And it’s our job to help them.”
Job and Family Services also had new desks installed. Sorrell said that they are user-friendly and make their offices look better. “I really appreciate it,” she said. “I know the supervisors do too.”
According to Sorrell, adoptions have been a great success and this year may bring a record breaking number of adoptions. “Which is amazing, because we have a brand new adoption worker,” she added. “On the other hand, we continue to have a lot of struggles with the older children who are delinquent, unruly, and especially those who have mental illnesses.”
Sorrell was scheduled to have her June monthly meeting with the Preble County Commissioners to discuss May, on Wednesday, June 21.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH