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“Un”Healthy Howard

Ahhh, the joke that is Healthy Howard just continues to get funnier. Monday, The Baltimore Sun wrote an article showing how badly Ken Ulman’s pet project is faring.

Howard County’s highly praised attempt to provide low-cost, preventive medical care for uninsured residents is off to a slower than expected start.

Only about 200 people have joined since enrollment in Healthy Howard began last Oct. 1, county health officer Dr. Peter L. Beilenson said, falling short of the admittedly ambitious goal he set of signing up 2,000 members in the program’s first year.

“Enrollment is not where I hoped it would be,” Beilenson admitted under critical questioning at a recent county council budget hearing.

Regardless of whether the numbers were too optimistic or not, Ken Ulman claimed he needed to spend $500,000 of the county taxpayer’s money to fund a program to serve 2,000 people by his own administration’s estimates. The failed program clearly has not come close to this number and now even Ulman and his administration are claiming they are now only hoping (desperately I am sure) that it will serve 900 people. Yet they make no effort to cut the costs. Greg Fox applies some logic to this seemingly simple change in prediction, as reported by the gang at Explore Howard today.

County Council member Gregory Fox, the council’s sole Republican, submitted an amendment to the budget that would have cut funding for Healthy Howard from $500,000 to $250,000 and shifted the money to the budget for the Association of Community Services of Howard County, the umbrella organization that pays for Healthy Howard and other non-profit groups.

Because Healthy Howard has fewer participants than initially predicted, Fox argued , it should receive less money.

“Healthy Howard is asking to do less with more and I guess I’m a little bit perplexed by that,” Fox said.

I am perplexed too. In fact, isn’t Ken Ulman basically admitting his failed program is going to cost more than twice as much as he originally said it would by not cutting funds when he is cutting the number of people he is hoping to serve with this program? He claimed he need $500,000 for 2,000 people. Now he says he needs $500,000 for only 900 people. So in one year, the budgeted cost of this failed program has balooned from $250 per enrollee to $555 per enrollee. Of course, that doesn’t even consider that barely 200 people have signed up for this program to begin with, or nearly $2,500 per enrollee.

But I have no hope that the County Council is going to cut any money from this program since the last thing they want to do is admit that their party’s leader’s program is an abject failure and will just continue to throw money at it to make it look like it is working. Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Explore Howard article:

Ulman’s $1.4 billion operating budget includes layoffs for nine county employees and mandatory furloughs in December for most other county workers.

I wonder how those people are feeling right now knowing some of them are losing their jobs and others are taking paycuts (via furloughs) so that Ken Ulman can use that money in what is clearly nothing more than a cynical attempt to put a bullet point on his resume to use in bids for higher office….

Posted by Dave at 4:46 pm
Filed under: HoCo - Politics | Comments (4)

4 Responses to ““Un”Healthy Howard”

  1. Greg says:

    Dave, you forgot to mention that Ulman is paying people to sign up for this program in order to even get 200 people. What a complete waste of money.

  2. Freemarket says:

    The county funding is only part of the funding used by HHAP. I’d be curious to know how private funders view the Health Howard program. I don’t think they would have a hard time finding better uses for their private funds than funding HHAP given the low enrollment numbers thus far.

  3. Erich says:

    I do commend Ulman for attempting to get coverage for the uninsured, because if executed correctly it will save money in the long run. However, this isn’t the way to do it, so I am disappointed.

  4. Tom says:

    Please give Anthony Jordan’s site a look. He’s got some new ideas for the county, none of which are interested in “health counseling” for $5,000 a head.

    http://jordan2010.wordpress.com/