February 14th, 2005

Great River Health Systems provides $7,753,084 in community benefits to the area, according to an assessment of those programs and services completed late last year. That amount, based on 2003 figures, includes $6,285,824 in uncompensated care and $1,467,260 in free or discounted community benefits that Great River Health Systems specifically implemented to help area residents.

Community benefits are activities designed to improve the health status and increase access to care. Along with uncompensated care (which includes charity care and bad debt), community benefits include such services and programs as community education and outreach, health screenings, support groups, self-help programs, non-billed/reduced-fee clinics and cash/in-kind donations to the community.

The results for Great River Health Systems are included in a statewide survey by the Iowa Hospital Association (IHA) that shows Iowa hospitals provided more than $417 million in community-benefiting programs and services in 2003. That figure includes more than $353 million in uncompensated care and more than $64 million in free or discounted programs and services that hospitals offered to help their communities. All 116 Iowa hospitals are represented in the survey results.

One of the most successful community benefits programs offered by Great River Health Systems has been the Community Endowment Foundation. The foundation was established in 1999 to help foster the development of health-care services that may otherwise not be available to the community. The foundation was funded by a $1 million grant from the Great River Health Systems Foundation. Since its inception, the Community Endowment Foundation has provided 77 grants totalling $318,682 to area organizations.

Losses to Medicare and Medicaid also figure into the community benefits equation. Both of those government insurance programs fail to fully cover the cost of care given by Great River Health Systems, which in 2003 lost $56,098,792 to Medicare and $11,044,968 to Medicaid. In fact, Medicaid payments to Great River Health Systems are at the same level they were five years ago.

“When community benefit programs are threatened due to poor government reimbursement, then so is access to health care for thousands of Iowans,” said Kirk Norris, IHA president and CEO. “These kinds of programs are not likely to be offered by any entity other than a community hospital. Absent Iowa’s 116 community hospitals offering this type of service, demand for government involvement to provide the same would be greater.”

The IHA hospital community benefits report is available on-line at http://www.ihaonline.org/publications/publications.shtml, or by calling IHA at (515) 288-1955.