Health Department increases fees

Melissa Crowe By Melissa Crowe

Dec. 3, 2012 at 6:03 a.m.

Victoria City-County Health Department patients should prepare now for 2013's rate changes and fee increases.

Victoria County Commissioners unanimously approved increasing fees as much as 100 percent for eight services, including several immunizations and cholesterol screenings.

County Judge Don Pozzi said the department looks at the fees every year. The increases are set to take effect Jan. 1.

"They don't go up just to go up," Pozzi said. The increases "are made as minimal as possible."

Each increase - a 33 percent increase on pneumonia shots, a 100 percent increase on private flu shots and cholesterol screenings and a 15 percent increase on Twinrix Hepatitis A and B shots - is to cover costs, Pozzi said.

"We're not there to make money," he said. "We're there to serve the public."

In an email Monday, Dr. Bain Cate, director of the health department, said the fees with immunizations increase each year because of the price increases from vendors.

Cate said the Department of State Health Services took away their privilege to give DSHS-provided vaccines to children with private health insurance in January 2012.

However, some parents continued bringing their children to the health department for immunizations rather than going to a private health care provider. The fees for pre-filled flu shots for 6- to 35-month-olds are "a new category," Cate said, at privately insured patients' requests.

Cate said the only charges listed for federally provided immunizations are for the Texas Vaccine for Children's Program at $10.

"In keeping with accountability and holding harmless the Victoria County taxpayers who fund the health department, the nursing division must charge some amount to produce a revenue and not induce a true expense," Cate wrote in an email.

He called it "an example of responsible county government."

Any adult who comes to the department for any nonfederally provided vaccine is charged the same fee whether they have private, public or no insurance, Cate wrote.

He said that was the reason taxpayers are spared the financial burden of paying an expense for the service.

The health department will now charge $5 for making copies of immunization records.

"The Nursing Division employees were spending a significant amount of time with these requests and not being reimbursed for that time," Cate wrote.

If another medical provider or school makes the request, there is no fee.



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