Last updated: July 18. 2013 11:17PM - 141 Views
Amelia Holliday
Staff Reporter

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HAZARD — Health departments across the state may be facing tough spending and layoff decisions this year.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reported Wednesday that the Cumberland Valley District Health Department, serving Jackson, Harlan, Rockcastle, and Clay counties, made the decision to cut 14 employees this week due to lack of funding and issues with managed care organizations.

Karen Cooper, director of the district health department in Perry County, said her department, which serves seven counties, is not immune to the problem.

“We did have about 15 positions that we looked at that we probably potentially were going to lay off … last fiscal year,” Cooper said. “As it happened, we had enough people who either retired or found other employment, so we didn’t have to lay anyone off, but you know it’s [still] a possibility.”

Cooper said the main issue health departments have been facing is with the Medicaid managed care organizations and lack of payment from Kentucky Spirit, one of three companies that manage Medicaid for the state, for programs like school health which partners with school boards in the district to supply the schools with nurses.

Last year, Kentucky Spirit filed suit against the state to get out of its three-year contract after alleging it received faulty cost information about Medicaid from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

“One of our most perilous programs is our school health program; we’re not getting paid for that,” Cooper said. “That’s probably the most vulnerable position, but I mean we don’t really know anything at this point.”

Cooper said the health department has not received payment for the school health program since December 2011, which has really hurt their budget.

“It’s been a tough couple of years for health departments,” she said. “We just don’t know how much longer we can hold on, we’re trying to, you know, but it’s hard to say.”

Cooper said although the health department seems to be facing an uphill battle with funding, no decisions have been made as to how to handle the crunch.

“At this point,” she explained, “we do not have any plans, we are furloughing but we don’t have any immediate plans.”

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