Policies concerning vaccines for underinsured children discussed

LISBON – Concerns about changes to state policies involving vaccines for underinsured children was part of a discussion for the Columbiana County Board of Health on Wednesday.

Nursing Director Barbara Knee said although the Ohio Department of Health has pushed the deadline back for implementing changes to the vaccination policy, a recent visit from one of their advisers left her with no answers.

Currently, according to the Ohio Department of Health’s own survey, Knee said 10 percent of the children utilizing the county health department for their immunizations have no insurance, while 30 percent utilize medicaid. The other 60 percent have insurance, Knee said, but their policy does not pay for immunizations. Often their physician, knowing the family cannot afford $800 to vaccinate their children, will suggest the family instead go to the county health department.

However, while the state currently pays for the immunizations, in the future the state wants the county health department to purchase the vaccines and bill the families or their insurance. Both Knee and Health Commissioner Wesley Vins noted the family cannot pay and their insurance, often only covering catastrophic health issues or with a high deductible will not, which is why these families are utilizing the health department services in the first place.

Vins said for now their is no change and the deadline continues to be moved back. However, he added he is uncertain what the future will be for underinsured children needing vaccines in Ohio.

He adds, the biggest objective of the county health department is to prevent the spread of diseases and taking away the ability to immunize children takes away one of the department’s best ways of combating disease. Additionally, Vins said preventing disease is must less costly than treating it later once it is spreading.

In other matters before the board:

– Bids are being sought for three projects to replace groups of septic systems through the Water Pollution Control Loan Fund program. There is a possibility of two more groups should the first round of bids not exhaust the funding for the projects, however, Vins noted this is the last year for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency program which the county health department has utilized to assist low-income residents replace failing septic systems for the past several years.

– Due to the reduction in the amount the health department received this year, Dr. Shermeen Far’ukhi agreed to a reduction in contract. The board agreed to pay her $1,823 per month for the cancer clinic and $500 per month to be the department’s medical director. Knee said one of the issues was the lack of funding through the Komen grant this year. Komen was able to give out $1.2 million just two years ago, but this year was only able to give out $700,000.