Area Counties Vary on Public Health Budgeting

As local county governments have passed their budgets for the 2019-20 fiscal year, many have done so with a large portion going to public health care. The budgets reflect a growing need in the communities they serve for outpatient or post hospital patient needs. The departments tend to cover a large territory like in the case of Hancock County which is over 900 square miles and 11,341 residents in the county.

Hancock County Public Health is managed by the Hancock County Health System. In an effort to cut costs to the county, the Board of Supervisors brokered an agreement where the hospital system employed the nurses and covered the costs incurred in the caring of a number of patients. The Hancock County Public Health Department offers nursing services, physical and occupational therapy, and home health aide services. The cost to the county in this agreement for this year is just over $120,000. The hospital takes up the remaining costs and handles all billing to the patients for the services provided.

Winnebago County does not have an agreement with a local hospital system, but has investigated the possibility. County Attorney Kelsey Beenken and County Auditor Karla Weiss approached Hancock County Auditor Michelle Eisenman on how the outsourcing was done. However, at a recent public forum, Winnebago Supervisors were not interested in working with either the MercyOne or Mayo Health Systems. Instead, the county has budgeted $526,270 to go to the Public Health Department, whose overall budget is $1,349,099 for fiscal year 2019-20. Like Hancock County, Winnebago Public Health offers nursing services, physical and occupational therapy, and home health aide services in a county with a smaller size and population of 10,587.

In Worth County, with a population of 7,598, the county has spent $375,704 on public health. This, in combination with grants, NIACOG reimbursements, Medicaid and other additional revenues of $475,132 gave the department an overall budget of $850,836 in 2017-18. That is projected to go up to $930,112 in 2019-20. Like Hancock and Winnebago counties, the Worth County Public Health Department offers nursing services, physical and occupational therapy, and home health aide services, along with services to the elderly.

Wright County has a population of 13,229, yet of all the counties, they contribute one of the least amounts to their Public Health Department at $276,639. The county has gone through a series of cuts in services but still has expenditures of $1,734,356. The estimated revenue from outside sources such as Medicare and grants is $1,457,717. The county will make up the rest of the funding ($276,639) to break even with expenditures.