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PACHS Provides Community Benefit

By Staff | Dec 31, 2009

Palo Alto County Hospital provides $1,462,651 in community benefits to Palo Alto County, according to a recently completed assessment of those programs and services. That amount, based on 2008 figures, includes $812,057 in uncompensated care and $650,594 in free or discounted community benefits that Palo Alto County Hospital specifically implemented to help Palo Alto 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 Palo Alto County Hospital are included in a statewide report by the Iowa Hospital Association (IHA) that shows Iowa hospitals provided community benefits in 2008 valued at more than $1 billion. All 117 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 Kirk Norris.

But the ability of Iowa hospitals to respond to such needs is being hindered by the current economic downturn, as well as by losses caused by Medicare and Medicaid.

Total uncompensated care in 2008, including charity care and bad debt, was valued at more than $710 million, an increase of $97 million (15.8 percent) over 2007. More recently, IHA data indicates hospitals’ charity care and bad debt for the first quarter of 2009 has increased 18.6 percent compared to the same time period in 2008.

Meanwhile, Medicare and Medicaid, which represent about 60 percent of all hospital revenue in Iowa, created approximately $282 million in losses for the state’s hospitals during 2008. Palo Alto County Hospital lost $4,252,119 to Medicare and $670,454 to Medicaid in 2008.

The threat of further reductions to Medicare payments remains as Congress considers various health care reform proposals. “Health care reform should not be financed by across-the-board cuts to providers,” Norris said.

Instead, IHA is urging Congress to enact health care reform payment provisions that recognize and reward high-quality, low-cost providers.

Studies have shown that as much as 30 percent of health care is wasted by either being duplicative or ineffective and that some states, including Iowa, do a much better job of providing efficient care. Reducing that waste would save billions of dollars, which could be directed toward providing coverage for the uninsured.

“It is time that Medicare stop purchasing health care in a passive manner that encourages these massive variations in spending,” Norris said. “Medicare should actively seek and purchase value by rewarding efficiency and high-quality care.”