Oct 27, 2015

Not wanting to be ‘part of the problem,’ county declines to seek dollars from insurers

It’s not every day that a government agency turns down a chance to bring in more dollars and save local residents money in the process. But that’s what a split Park County Commission effectively did last week.

Park County Public Health Nurse Manager Bill Crampton had suggested getting a service (for as little as $20 a month) that would allow the county to easily bill insurance companies for procedures such as vaccinations.

Park County isn't going to start billing insurer for vaccinations. File photo courtesy National Institutes of Health
Park County Public Health only charges citizens $15 above the cost of a vaccine, but health insurance companies will often authorize significantly more. So while a citizen is only charged $25 for a flu vaccination, their insurance company might pay as much as $85 if they were billed, Crampton said.

“It’s taking advantage of what the insurance companies are willing to pay versus what we charge,” he explained at the Oct. 20 meeting.

Crampton said Big Horn County brought in an extra $1,000 after starting to bill insurers.

But the dollar signs failed to convince the majority of the Park County commissioners that it was a good idea.

“I guess I have a little bit of a tough time just setting us up to take the money just because the insurance company is willing to pay it,” said Commissioner Lee Livingston, adding, “Does that just mean we’re part of the damn problem, excuse me (for the language), with the insurance companies?”

“It seems like, to me, we’re adding to that problem,” agreed Commission Chairman Joe Tilden, backed by Commissioner Tim French.

In contrast, Commissioner Bucky Hall thought the billing was worth exploring, with public health’s revenue on the decline.

Commissioner Loren Grosskopf also wanted to look at the options, noting that if the insurance company pays for a vaccine, it saves the person money. If it was him getting the vaccination, “I would want my insurance company to process it first,” Grosskopf offered.

French countered that it wasn't the county’s job to submit someone's claims to insurance, calling for “some personal responsibility in the world.”

While public health’s overall revenue has dropped, Crampton said the current rates for vaccinations cover those costs.

Both Tilden and Livingston indicated they might change their minds about pursuing insurance companies if the county ever begins losing money.

Park County Public Health had doled out about 1,300 doses of flu vaccine as of last week and has about that many doses remaining, Crampton said.

(Editor's note: This version adds a correction from Crampton that Park County Public Health charges $15 (not $10) above the cost of its vaccines.)

~By CJ Baker


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