Medicaid boosts local integrated health care

Enrollment shifts to Medicaid patients

Since the expansion of Medicaid in January, hundreds of patients have enrolled to access mental and integrated health care locally.

The largest mental health provider in town, Cortez Integrated Healthcare on East Empire Street, has had its enrollment shift from about 39 percent of patients being on Medicaid to about 60 percent, said director Fred Colson.

As an integrated health clinic, it employs both mental health therapists and doctors who may see patients at the same time and make decisions about a patient’s care together. About 1,400 patients at the clinic, or 80 percent, receive this integrated care.

The Medicaid expansion has helped to the clinic to see patients with income levels it hadn’t been able to accept since January 2013.

When Cortez Integrated Healthcare opened at its new location in late 2011, it had a sliding fee structure for patients without insurance. But the office had to shut down it down in January 2013 for financial reasons. The clinic is not health care provider of last resort, so it did not receive federal funds for uninsured patients, Colson said.

“People we were not able to serve through the sliding scale have now qualified for Medicaid,” he said.

This year, Medicaid was expanded cover to people earning 133 percent of the federal poverty level from those living at the poverty level. This expansion was funded by the federal government.

Before the expansion, in Montezuma County about 20 percent of the population was living above the poverty level but still could not afford private health insurance, said Bern Heath the CEO of Axis Health System, which overseas Cortez Integrated Healthcare.

“We’ve had a huge increase in Medicaid enrollment. That huge increase in enrollment automatically provides dollars for mental health care,” he said.

Axis Health System will receive $1 million more in funding for behavioral health care this year than it did last year, he said.

Medicaid pays health-care providers a flat monthly fee for each mental-health patient, he said. For primary health services Medicaid pays as a patient receives treatment, and those funds are not part of the $1 million.

While the Cortez clinic has grown, Colson hopes to reach even more patients. The clinic currently has about 1,800 patients enrolled, but at typical medical practice a one doctor can see 2,500 patients in a year on average.

The clinic expanded its primary care services recently by hiring two pediatricians and a family care doctor. Some of the new growth has come from patients seeking just primary care, which the clinic will also provide.