Hiring of consultant upsets some

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By ABBY SOUZA

Although he was unhappy with the price tag, Tuolumne County Supervisor Dick Pland voted along with the rest of the board yesterday to hire a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act consultant.

The county will spend $54,934 for the consultant to tell the county how to comply with HIPAA rules on security, privacy and transmission of health information that identifies individual patients.

"HIPAA is very labor intensive," said Ann Maloney, the county's privacy officer. She said county staff members are not educated enough in this type of work to complete it without the consultant's help.

But before the vote, Pland took issue with the costs of consultants. In this case, the county has to pay the state an "administrative fee" just for generating a list of possible consultants.

At 1.93 percent, that fee comes out to $1,040.

"That is an awful expensive piece of paper," Pland said.

From that list, the board chose CHC Healthcare Solutions of New Jersey to complete all the HIPAA work.

This isn't the first complaint Pland and other supervisors have had with the cost of price of consultants.

In May, the county applied for a grant to develop a plan for how county agencies would function during a disaster. While some of the $75,034 grant was for training and equipment, most up to $48,300 was for a consultant to develop the plan.

"It seems ridiculous in my view that we're spending this much money on a consultant," Pland said.

The emergency plan's grant funds came from federal coffers, said Supervisor Mark Thornton, but Pland maintained that the county generally pays too much for consultants.

Besides the HIPAA work, the supervisors considered approving funds for the Sugar Pine Trail project.

The board put off a decision until next week. Budget issues require four of the five supervisors to vote in favor. Supervisor Larry Rotelli was absent and Supervisor Paolo Maffei had to excuse himself from the vote because he lives near the project.

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The Union Democrat
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