Agency Performance Oversight Hearing, Fiscal Year 2013-2014, Department of Health Care Finance

Testimony of Bonnie O’Keefe, Senior Policy Analyst 

DC Action for Children

Agency Performance Oversight Hearing

Fiscal Year 2013-2014

Department of Health Care Finance

Before the Committee on Health

Council of the District of Columbia

March 6, 2014

Good afternoon Committee Chairwoman Alexander and members of the Committee on Health. Thank you for the opportunity to address the Council as it reviews the performance of the DC Department of Health Care Finance (DHCF). My name is Bonnie O’Keefe, and I am a senior policy analyst with DC Action for Children.   

DC Action for Children (DC Action) provides data-based analysis and policy leadership on critical issues facing DC children and youth, to promote policies and actions that optimize child and family well-being. 

DC Action is the home of DC KIDS COUNT, which tracks key indicators of child and youth well-being in the DC neighborhoods where children live, learn and grow. We work closely with city agencies, the school system and service providers to share the most accurate and timely data, along with clear and accessible analysis. Our advocacy agenda is based on these data.

My testimony today will focus on the Department of Health Care Finance’s work to improve the availability and transparency of data on children’s health in DC. In DC, nearly 70% of children ages 0-20 have publicly financed health care coverage under Medicaid and CHIP, which means the Department of Health Care Finance plays a critical role in providing health care access for the majority of DC children, as well as tracking health care utilization and outcomes.  

DC Action is a member of the DC Medical Care Advisory Committee (MCAC), and DC Action’s Executive Director HyeSook Chung currently serves as Secretary of the MCAC.   MCAC members include advocacy organizations, Medicaid consumers, health care providers, trade associations, and other Medicaid stakeholders. The MCAC offers advice and feedback to DHCF on community issues, and helps disseminate information on DHCF programs to the DC community at large.

As a member of the MCAC, DC Action thanks DHCF director Wayne Turnage and his staff for actively collaborating and communicating with the MCAC on issues such as budget, rules, enrollment data and DHCF policies. This collaboration allows the MCAC to be much more effective in its advisory and information-sharing roles.  

Department of Health Care Finance Data Shed Light on DC Children’s Health Care

Over the past year, DC Action has been pleased to work with Colleen Sonosky, Associate Director, Division of Children’s Health Services in DHCF’s Health Care Delivery Management Administration and her team to learn more about children in DC who access health care via Medicaid and CHIP, and to make data transparent to the DC community. DC Action will be integrating Medicaid enrollment, emergency room visits, and other important health care data for children into our newest version of DC KIDS COUNT in the coming months. We are also pleased to see DHCF publishing new data snapshots on children’s health so that this vital information can be more publicly accessible.

In a February 2014 Data Snapshot by DHCF on The Role of Pubic Programs in Children’s Health Care Coverage in the District of Columbia, we learned that enrollment in publicly financed health care coverage is highest among children ages 6-12 years old (77%) and lowest among children ages 1-5 years old (63%). With this new information, we can start asking better questions: is enrollment in the 1-5 age bracket low because of an access or enrollment hurdle, because of some demographic characteristics of the children in that age group, or for another reason?

We sincerely hope that DHCF will continue to make data transparency a priority. We encourage them to publicly release more datasets on health care usage and health outcomes, particularly among children. This will help advocacy groups, researchers, program administrators in other agencies and health care providers better understand the role DHCF plays in DC’s healthcare system, and ask better questions to help DHCF improve their services.  

Collaboration With Other Agencies Should Be A Priority

Medicaid reimbursement and health care access for families on Medicaid is crucial to the success and operation of many DC programs for young children, including early intervention for children with developmental delays and disabilities, Head Start, home visiting, and many community based services for families. We encourage DHCF to prioritize liaising with these programs, to form more data-sharing agreements and informational relationships. We were pleased to see DHCF staff present at the recent community summit for Help Me Grow, a model to streamline access to community-based services for young children and families. Staff from DOH, OSSE, medical care providers and many other community service providers were also at the summit to discuss care coordination for young children. We hope there will be many more opportunities in the future for these groups to come together around the needs of children.    

Thank you for the opportunity to testify, I’m happy to answer any questions. 

Disqus comments