Lucas County Health Center (LCHC) provides 1,508,186 in community benefits to Lucas County, according to a recently completed assessment of those programs and services. That amount, based on 2014 figures, includes $629,493 in uncompensated care and $878,693 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 2014 valued at nearly $1.2 billion, including more than $288 million in charity care. All 118 of Iowa’s community hospitals participated in the survey.
A major part of LCHC’s community benefits come from Healthy University, a program that was implemented in response to the need for low cost health and wellness education in the community. All Healthy University programs come at no cost to the attendees and cover a variety of topics throughout the season, which runs from September to May.
“We are proud to provide services that promote and enhance the well-being of Lucas County residents,” said Brian Sims, LCHC Chief Executive Officer. “The continuation of these beneficial programs is important to the future of Lucas County.”
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.
But the ability of Iowa hospitals to respond to such needs is affected by many factors, including managing huge losses inflicted upon by Medicare and Medicaid, totaling more than $314 million. More than 60 percent of all hospital revenue in Iowa comes from Medicare and Medicaid. Hospitals serving small, rural communities and counties are particularly dependent on these programs.
Iowa hospitals, which employee more than 71,000 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 and the Commonwealth Fund.
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.