County picks new CHOICES chief, weighs changes


Published: Thursday, January 18, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 17, 2007 at 11:28 p.m.

A Pennsylvania health care consultant has been chosen as the new director of Alachua County's CHOICES medical program for low-income workers.

Michael Shine of Downingtown, Pa., said final details have to be worked out, but added he is looking forward to the job.

"I think it is a great program," Shine said. "I think there is going to be a lot of movement to this type of program across the country. The more you can educate people on how to use health care, the better society will be."

CHOICES is funded with a quarter-cent, seven-year sales tax. Advocates said during the referendum campaign that up to 14,000 county residents were below the poverty level and uninsured. The referendum passed by an 85-vote margin in 2004.

Initial enrollment figures were below expectations and changes in the criteria to qualify were made.

The program provides basic care such as annual exams and visits to the doctor when sick. It also offers dental care and management of diseases such as diabetes.

More than 600 people have now enrolled and about $20 million is in the program's coffers, said interim Director Susan Myers of the county's Community Support Services Department.

Some county commissioners believe that enrollment goals should be set and changes to the program made if they are not met.

Shine would not discuss his ideas for the program when contacted Wednesday, saying he preferred to wait until his hiring is finalized and he is on the job.

County Manager Randall Reid said CHOICES will continue in some form, but changes are possible.

"He is aware the program may be under a number of transitions," Reid said. "The board is currently discussing the future of that program. We feel the program itself will continue. Discussions will be to clarify how long we will continue to collect funding and to create a trust fund to fund it in the future."

Shine created Shine Associates in 2004 to consult on health care matters. He has extensive experience working with businesses and government agencies to develop health plans, process claims, deal with cost containment and other health-related matters.

Myers said Shine's experience with health care was a key factor in his selection for the job.

"I think he will be a wonderful addition to CHOICES," Myers said. "His whole background is in health care administration. That was certainly the deciding factor."

Myers said Shine is expected to start Feb. 12. The County Commission meets the next day and a CHOICES presentation is scheduled.

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