Lucas County Health Center provides $4,701,266 in community benefits to Lucas County according to a recently completed assessment of those programs and services. That amount, based on 2015 figures, includes $1,494,846 in uncompensated care and $3,206,420 in free or discounted community benefits that Lucas County Health Center 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 Lucas County Health Center are included in a statewide report by the Iowa Hospital Association (IHA) that shows Iowa hospitals provided community benefits in 2016 valued at more than $855 million, including more than $198 million in charity care. All 118 of Iowa’s community hospitals participated in the survey.
“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 2016 was valued at $468 million. The survey also showed total Medicare and Medicaid losses (at cost) of $212 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 72,000 people, continue implement strategies that increase value to their patients and communities by offering high-quality care to individuals, addressing the health needs of identified populations 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.