Grinnell Regional Medical Center provides more than $9 million in community benefits to the GRMC service area, according to a recently completed assessment of those programs and services. That amount, based on 2011 figures, includes $1 million in uncompensated care and $2.7 million in free or discounted community benefits that GRMC specifically implemented to help area residents. These numbers are in the medical center’s annual report to be released this month.
Community benefits are activities designed to improve health status and increase access to healthcare. 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, and community support.
The results for GRMC are included in a statewide report by the Iowa Hospital Association (IHA) that shows Iowa hospitals provided community benefits in 2011 valued at more than $1.4 billion, including nearly $600 million in charity care. All 118 of Iowa’s community hospitals participated in the survey.
“Our mission drives GRMC and takes our work beyond the walls of the hospital. A top priority is making every effort to improve the health of the communities we are privileged to serve. Another priority is delivering care to those in our community who cannot afford to pay,” says Ed Hatcher, GRMC board chair. “It’s also about traveling to elementary schools to fit every third-grade student in our service area with a quality bike helmet to help prevent head injuries. It’s about health fairs, educational opportunities like the SE*ED program, support groups, and the Women’s Health Focus and Baby Fair.”
GRMC also provides support to after- prom parties, babysitting courses, community CPR classes, and other community health services.
The IHA survey gathers data for programs and services 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, according to Kirk Norris, IHA president and CEO.
But the ability of Iowa hospitals to respond to such needs is being hindered by the ongoing economic downturn as well as by huge losses inflicted upon hospitals by Medicare and Medicaid, totaling more than $274 million (a 5.8 percent increase over last year’s report). The cost of providing care to Medicare patients in 2011 was $4 million more than Medicare paid. There was a $1 million gap in payment from Medicaid patients. More than 60 percent of all hospital revenue in Iowa comes from Medicare and Medicaid.
“GRMC’s level of Medicare reimbursement has improved in 2012 thanks to efforts working with our congressional delegation in Washington, DC, to include a demonstration project in the healthcare reform legislation. As a result we will receive an annual increase in reimbursement of about $1 million for the next five years,” says Todd Linden, GRMC president and CEO. “Although still well below our costs, this will have a significant impact on GRMC’s financial standing and ability to meet community needs.
Iowa hospitals continue to 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.
“Most studies show Iowans receive some of the best care at some of the lowest costs in the nation. We still have work to do, but this does put us in a good position going forward as healthcare reform unfolds. When one adds the community benefits this study highlights, it all adds up to a very good value for those we serve,” says Linden.