Hancock County Leads the Way in Administering Public Health

In a time of tax cuts and government bodies trying to lower operational costs, one area county has a proven way to reduce costs and dramatically save taxpayer dollars. Hancock County recently took the initiative to move it’s public health program away from government budget and into the hands of proven health care management. The Board of Supervisors entered into a sharing  agreement with the Hancock County Health System. The move slashed operational costs by over $1,000,000 and moved all billing and payroll over to the hospital system. This relieved the county of all employee expenditures such as health, retirement, and other benefits, but maintained a public health system with all the services as before.

Winnebago County continues to maintain its program as a county government run program, much of it at taxpayer expense. This means that the county manages everything which includes visitations to patient homes, billing, encoding, all paperwork, employee management, payroll, and county employee benefit programs. Under the Hancock County system, those responsibilities are merged into the hospital, but home visits and treatments are still done by nurses within the Hancock County Public Health program. According to Hancock County Supervisor Jerry Tlach, this move was a tremendous step for Hancock County.

Hancock County now pays $100,000 annually to the hospital system in total costs. Winnebago County currently pays over $1 million in expenses in payroll, supplies, and other miscellaneous items such as Public Health Building upkeep. Julie Sorenson was recently hired by the Winnebago County Board of Public Health as the Administrator. Supervisor Mike Stensrud is on the board that hired Sorenson to take the post. Stensrud told the Winnebago County Board of Supervisors that there were five applicants for the position, but all refused the pay scale for the position they were applying for. Sorenson took the post for $68,000 annually as an administrator while the public health board hired a second applicant as a office manager. When the hiring process was complete, the two hires received $32,000 in pay increases between them. According to Winnebago County Auditor Karla Weiss, the public health fund is already “…$8,000 in the hole.” Stensrud has stated that there needs to be a discussion on limiting  or reducing the Public Health budget, but he also voted to hire Sorenson and then the additional manager.

Sorenson explained that the Public Health Department has difficulty with the volume of required paperwork which in turn leads to collection of money from Medicare. There is so much involved in the filling out and justification of procedures in the said paperwork that she feels…

Hancock County does not spend money on these procedures and paperwork because the hospital system handles the load. In fact, 38 of the 99 counties in Iowa utilize the services of hospitals and clinics saving these counties millions of tax dollars in labor costs, supplies, and liability. Those tax dollars have been re-routed to other county projects or the taxes have been significantly reduced. Those that have opted to hospital services have stated it was the best move they have made for both the patients and more importantly, the taxpayers.

Sorenson recently told the Winnebago County Board of Supervisors that while the $1 million tax dollar service is for the medically homebound public, …