Health departments an untapped resource

Friday, September 18, 2009

How can so many Americans not receive general health care when we have health departments in virtually every county nationwide? Name one politician on either side, one analyst, one pundit who has even touched on all the ways county health departments across America serve the poor, the uninsured, the underinsured, as well as the general public. If a major overhaul of health care passes, will programs overlap, causing tax payers to pay for the same services twice or, as in states like Tennessee, Massachusetts, and Hawaii, three times due to programs like TennCare? Will these programs, including TennCare and SChip, be eliminated entirely? After making several phone calls my questions remain unanswered.

Last week Jason Lewis, County Director for Marshall, Bedford, and Giles counties, Tennessee Department of Health, was happy to provide a list of services ( some are outlined below) which residents can receive through our Marshall County Health Department. For services not provided locally, patients are connected to an appropriate agency (or neighboring health department) that does provide those services. Fees are based on family size and income. TennCare payments come into play where applicable. For more information, contact the Marshall County Health Department, located at 206 Legion Avenue, at 359-1551.

Children from birth to 21 can receive well-child check ups, including immunizations, physical exams, screenings, and services for special needs including speech and hearing.

Dental exams, sealants, and education are provided locally. Children needing dental treatments are referred. Uninsured pregnant women are referred and cared for elsewhere. Other uninsured adults are referred on an emergency basis only.

Family Planning and Women's Health services include a complete physical exam, certain lab tests (including PAP tests and other diagnostic screenings) birth control education, and counseling on a broad spectrum of issues. Some conditions are treated here, some referred.

A nutritionist, prenatal care, TennCare and TENNderCARE Outreach are accessed locally. Primary care is referred.

Most of these services (excluding state programs like TennCare) are included in HR3200 and are likely in other proposed bills. This begs the question, "Given the services already available and funded through health departments, why do we need the same provisions in current legislation? Why not simply expand and tweak the existing program? Don't we need the answers before buying the goods?

Could county health departments be the nation's best kept secret or are we just ignoring them? How much could be saved by carrying only catastrophic insurance to cover heart attacks, etc. and using our health departments for general care? Americans need to know.

The American Liberty Tour will roll into Nashville tonight for a rally from 6pm to 8 pm at Nashville's Municipal Auditorium., which seats 10,000 people. Speakers include Joe the Plumber, Bob Basso (the Thomas Paine of YouTube fame,) and Ralph Bristol, talk show host of Nashville's Morning News at 99.7 WTN.

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