Bartow, Fla. (March 10, 2022) — Behavioral health services are easier to access for Polk HealthCare Plan members seeking treatment now that it is a covered benefit.
The addition, which was approved by the Citizens HealthCare Oversight Committee, began this month and is one of many enhancements that targets Polk’s growing vulnerable population. The committee also has revised the plan’s eligibility criteria twice in the last year to mirror the growing minimum wage and make the program more accessible to those who might not have qualified in the past.
“We want people to be able to take advantage of this,” said Joy Johnson, the program’s administrator. “It’s here for them to use and we want them to use it. By changing behavioral health to being a covered benefit, we are eliminating extra hurdles our clients have to jump through to receive the treatment they need.”
The Polk HealthCare Plan is for those who are caught in the gap between not qualifying for Medicaid or Medicare, and unable to afford marketplace insurance. Although the plan is not health insurance, it is a way for qualified individuals to get healthcare. Polk’s Indigent Health Care program manages a provider network for the healthcare plan that includes primary care and specialty care physicians, urgent care centers and five area hospitals.
While behavioral health was not previously a covered benefit in the Polk HealthCare Plan, members could access those services through a referral to a community partner. While reviewing data, Johnson found patients were not accessing those services. Between August 2020 and July 2021, nearly one-third of the plan’s membership had identified a behavioral health need; however, only 5 percent of clients were accessing those services.
“There’s a bottleneck that we must fix,” Johnson added. “By streamlining access, we are taking the opportunity to remove those barriers and encourage the clients to get the care they need.”