County OKs Public Health Fee Increases

An increase in fees to treat sexually transmitted diseases – one of the mandated services provided by the county’s public health department – was given initial approval by the Washtenaw County board of commissioners at their March 7, 2012 meeting. The changes are being made in response to federal funding cuts and an increase in charges for state services.

The board also approved changes at the medical examiner’s office, including fees for organ procurement services provided to the Michigan Gift of Life program, and a new late payment policy. According to a staff memo, about 10% of revenues are not realized because of non-payment. [.pdf of revised fee schedule]

By way of background, the adult clinic – which treats sexually transmitted diseases – is a mandated service that has relied on federal funding administered by the state. In mid-2011, the county was notified that federal funding for this program, which the state passed through to local health departments, would be cut by 33%. Since then, the Washtenaw County public health department has been notified that it will receive just half of its expected appropriation for this program. At the same time, the department was notified that the Michigan Dept. of Community Health (MDCH) would be increasing its testing fees for gonorrhea and chlamydia from $36 to $78 in January of 2012. It’s in this context that the fee increases are being proposed.

There will be a sliding fee scale for low-income residents, and a commitment that no one will be denied services, according to the county. Commissioner Ronnie Peterson raised concerns about the accessibility of these services to low-income residents, and was assured by Dick Fleece, director of the public health department, that no one would be refused treatment because of inability to pay. In order to verify income, as well as to handle the billing and collection process, the public health department will be buying ePrescribing software at a cost of $28,000. Most of that – $21,500 – will be covered by a federal incentive program.

A final vote is expected at the board’s March 21, 2012 meeting.

This brief was filed from the boardroom of the county administration building, 220 N. Main St. in Ann Arbor. A more detailed report will follow: [link]