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Kandiyohi County begins processing seniors into new medical program

WILLMAR -- The workload at the Kandiyohi County Family Services Department has skyrocketed since Jan. 1, when a number of eligible residents automatically became enrolled in the new Minnesota Senior Health Options program.

Individuals who are on Medicare and Medicaid and had been enrolled in the state's previous managed care program, called the Prepaid Medical Assistance Program, were "passively" enrolled into the new Minnesota Senior Health Options program, known as MSHO.

Minnesota Senior Health Options, which is a federally administered program, provides a "chronic care management component" to the Medicare and Medicaid program, said Tamraa Goldenstein, a social service supervisor, who gave the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners an update on the enrollment process during the board meeting Tuesday.

According to figures from the Department of Human Services, Goldenstein said there were about 500 eligible residents in the county in December and 93 had actively enrolled in one of the county's two Minnesota Senior Health Options programs -- U-Care or Secure Blue.

On Jan. 1, the government automatically enrolled eligible consumers into Minnesota Senior Health Options unless they specifically requested not to be enrolled. That meant that Kandiyohi County acquired more than 400 individuals overnight to process, said Goldenstein.

The county has also acquired 44 nursing home patients that it had not anticipated. Some of those individuals have received county services in the past through the old managed care program. On top of the county's existing client load, Goldenstein said in the next six months the county will need to make contact with about 150 people that the county has never had contact with before, because of the Minnesota Senior Health Options enrollment. Just two weeks into the program, requests for additional hospitalization and nursing home stays have started coming in, she said.

"The adventure has truly begun," she told the commissioners. "It's a significant undertaking for staff."

Once an individual is enrolled, a county caseworker is responsible for such things as coordinating a consumer's medical appointments, hospital stays, home care and medical supplies. "It has to come through our office," said Goldenstein.

"I see an administrative nightmare," said Commissioner Harlan Madsen.

Goldenstein said it is good for the seniors that the county is involved with them during this transition of medical programs. She said seniors can remove themselves from the program.

"This is really good for the seniors."

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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