Medicaid move expected to improve services, efficiency

Published 5:00 am Monday, October 2, 2006

Medicaid clients have a new place to go to review or makeadjustments to their cases.

The Brookhaven branch office of Medicaid opened this morning atits new location at 1372 Johnny Johnson Dr., which is west ofInterstate 55 off of Brookway Boulevard.

“We’re open for business, but right now our phones are notworking and I don’t know for sure when they’ll be up. I’m hopingthey’ll be up by the end of the day,” Branch Director SarahUnderwood said this morning.

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The agency retained the telephone number, 601-835-2020, from itsmain office at 128 S. First St. However, the telephone number atthe agency’s auxiliary office at 414 Dunn Ratcliff Road has beeneliminated.

The new building is not yet marked, but is located next to theSocial Security Administration and across from the Mississippi TaxCommission. Underwood hopes to get the building marked soon.

“I’ve got some signs I could remove from the old building foruse temporarily, but I have to have a sign built to comply with thecovenant out here,” she said.

In the meantime, signs have been placed at the old buildingsdirecting clients to the new location.

Underwood said the new building will help improve the agency’sefficiency by allowing it to combine offices.

“This will make us incredibly more efficient,” she said.”Interoffice memos and correspondence were difficult to manage. Wewould have to send people to the other office whenever informationwas needed.”

Separating Medicaid’s services into two locations was neverplanned, Underwood said.

“My staff doubled Jan. 1, 2005, and I did not have the space atour old location, where we had been for 11 years at the time. Wehad to find the space, and that caused us to open the secondoffice,” she said.

The main office continued to serve all aged, blind and disabledclients for all counties, but the agency’s services in othercategories were limited to Lincoln County clients there. Theauxiliary office on Dunn Ratcliff Road “mostly served clients inLawrence and Copiah counties” in areas of family, children and theChildren’s Health Insurance Program.

“It also gives us one good address instead of two,” Underwoodsaid of the new location. “This will solve a lot of knownproblems.”

Another problem solved will make the agency more compliant withfederal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Actregulations. At the old location, when a Medicaid worker needed tointerview a client other employees would need to clear the office,putting a halt to production, Underwood said.

“At the old office, we had two to three people per office,”Underwood said. “Here, we have one per office, which puts us inagreement with HIPAA regulations.”

The new location will also prove beneficial to clients in otherways, she said. Its location next to the Social SecurityAdministration will especially aid the elderly and disabled becausethe only Medicaid service not conducted at the new office are thosetied to Social Security Income eligibility, which is handled at theSocial Security offices.