Aaron Hankins, RN, walks through his yard to his office every day. As a Rocky Mountain Health Plans case manager, it’s literally his home base—where he answers emails, manages paperwork and telephonically checks in on patients recently discharged from hospitals.
But a typical week sees Hankins covering hundreds of square miles to personally serve residents of four Colorado counties and part of another. Hankins was born and raised in the region. It is a largely rural, rugged area, and Hankins’s job is to support the needs of Rocky Mountain Health Plans’ Medicaid community residing there.
Hankins has served in this role since 2015. He previously worked as a surgical nurse, and then became a home health nurse—a role that led him to his current work as a care coordinator.
“When you work in home health, you go to a patient’s home and do hands-on nursing, and a small portion of that is case management. Now, I still see the patient at home, but a large part of what I do is case management and I don’t do hands-on nursing,” Hankins says.
Hankins reaches out to members who are both Medicaid and Medicare eligible twice a year via telephone, to ensure they’re receiving needed services. “I try to go to their home and do an assessment in person. It’s easier to pin down what assistance they need; phone assessments can be inaccurate,” he says.
He and another RMHP case manager also do local outreach several times each month in a homeless shelter. The lack of affordable housing in the region is a social health need he encounters often, he says.
“The waiting list for housing is 18 months to two years, and that’s a huge barrier. Any time we can find housing for a Medicaid member who is homeless, we chalk that up as a big success story, because that’s difficult. A lot of times, people move out of the area before they’re even close to the top of the list for housing.”
Another common barrier for his clients is finding primary care providers “because there’s more demand than supply. Some of the clinics are taking new patients one week, and the next week they’re full, so we have to stay on top of who is accepting new patients.”
He emphasizes that much of his work is educating patients about the help that’s available—whether it’s finding a primary care medical home, filling out housing paperwork or getting transportation to and from doctor’s appointments.
“I’m the kind of case manager who really pushes for people to help themselves.” he says. “I’ll do everything I can to get them going down the right road, and then I want to educate them to sustain it—to learn how to navigate the system on their own. And then they can use me as a tool when they get stuck somewhere,” he says.
“The greatest satisfaction in this work is opening someone’s eyes to how they can help themselves,” he says.