Lucas County Health Center (LCHC) provides $5,751,065 in community benefits to Lucas County, according to a recently completed assessment of those programs and services. That amount, based on 2017 figures, includes $2,791,403 in uncompensated care and $2,959,662 in free or discounted community benefits that LCHC specifically implemented to help Lucas County residents.
Community benefits are activities designed to improve health status and increase access to health care. Along with uncompensated care (which includes both charity care and bad debt), community benefits include such services and programs as health screenings, support groups, counseling, immunizations, nutritional services and transportation programs.
The results for LCHC are included in a statewide report by the Iowa Hospital Association (IHA) that shows Iowa hospitals provided community benefits in 2017 valued at more than $880 million, including more than $224 million in charity care.
The programs and services accounted for in the survey were implemented in direct response to the needs of individual communities as well as entire counties and regions. Many of these programs and services simply would not exist without hospital support and leadership, said IHA President and CEO Kirk Norris.
Uncompensated care (which is made up of both charity care and bad debt) also plays a role in overall community benefit for services provided by hospitals. Total uncompensated care in 2017 was valued at $502 million. The survey also showed total Medicare and Medicaid losses (at cost) of $226 million.
Charity care in Iowa hospitals has declined precipitously since implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), including Iowa’s expansion of the Medicaid program. Recent efforts in Congress to repeal the ACA and roll back expansion would not only leave tens of thousands of Iowans without insurance, but would financially endanger hospitals across the state, which is why IHA has strenuously opposed such legislation.
Iowa hospitals, which employ more than 74,000 people, continue implement strategies that increase value to their patients and communities by offering high-quality care to individuals, addressing the health needs of communities and implementing process improvements that bend the cost curve. By seeking out ways to raise quality, reduce waste and increase safety, Iowa hospitals have become value leaders, as shown in multiple studies by the Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care, the Commonwealth Fund and others.
LCHC is continually looking for ways to improve the patient experience by increasing safety, improving quality, and reducing waste. By participating in the nationwide initiative, partnership for Patients, LCHC is able to partner with hospitals across the nation to improve processes in regards to topics like patient falls, readmissions, catheter associated urinary tract infections, and more. Working with an advisor, this partnership sparks discussions in regards to best practices and gives LCHC staff the tools to implement them.
These efforts, along with IHA’s ongoing advocacy to create fairer payment methodologies from Medicare and Medicaid, help ensure the financial stability of hospitals, making it possible for them to provide the services and programs most needed by their communities.