Chisago County commissioners approved moving forward last week on hiring five “limited term” employees to handle the state moving into the Affordable Care Act’s initial caseload tsunami. The action calls for three financial workers, a case aide and a lead financial worker for Health & Human Services. County HHS Director Nancy Dahlin wasn’t specific yet on where their workspace would be-- whether in the government center or North Branch satellite HHS offices. Dahlin explained that the current budget for 2013 will be affected as the need for extra staff is apparently immediate.
The healthcare structure begins to be disassembled and rebuilt over the coming months. She advised the County Board to make the hiring “limited term” or no longer than three years. The caseload will drop, as healthcare policies are matched with clients and technological tools (software, etc.) become more available, Dahlin added. There’s an anticipated 50 to 75 percent reimbursement potential for some personnel costs, but HHS reserves have to be tapped in either case because any outside funding for this work would come as a reimbursement, Dahlin explained. Commissioner Lora Walker commented that aside from “just throwing up our hands,” she’d like to see a more “strategic” expression of frustration from the County Board forwarded to state and federal officials, who are simply expecting counties to absorb these unfunded mandates.
Commissioner George McMahon added that at the recent annual Association of Minnesota Counties (AMC) Conference, the Affordable Care Act was a “big topic.” He said, “Healthcare in this country is in disarray and it’s all coming down to local (levels) to address it.” County Administrator Bruce Messelt suggested a mailer go out with tax statements that could highlight some of these types of budget hits that Chisago County had no say in but has to pay the bills. The commissioners said that an information piece would be a good idea.