CONWAY, SC (WMBF) – There are new
state-wide efforts to handle healthcare in South Carolina. Every year, the state
spends several hundred million tax dollars to treat uninsured patients, but now
there's a plan in the works to cut the costs.
Local hospital administrators tell WMBF News
there are a high number of uninsured people in the area, and when one visits
the emergency room, it can cost anywhere from $600 to $6,000. If the patient is uninsured, everyone ends up paying for it.
With the state's new "Healthy Outcomes"
program, each hospital is working on contacting a number of uninsured patients
who frequently visit. They are sending letters, making phone calls, and even
knocking on doors if necessary. Hospital care coordinators will then take the
time to help them with their health, by working with them to get them more
affordable and preventative health care solutions. For example, by taking a
person to primary care doctors so they won't need to end up at the hospital,
which is one of the most expensive ways to handle health issues.
Taxpayers are the ones paying for those
uninsured hospital visits, through general taxes or through their own higher
bill paid for at the hospital. Local hospital officials tell WMBF News with the
way it is now, they have no choice but to charge.
"We have to cover it somehow," said Angela
Williford, the Conway Medical Center Vice President of Quality. "There are
fixed costs that have to be covered and so they get spread across all bills."
More than 8,000 people statewide have been
selected to participate in the program. Hospitals are reaching out to the
people who have showed up in ERs more than four times in a one year period.
The Conway Medical Center plans to handle more than 150 uninsured patients, while
Grand Strand Regional has nearly 300.
It's not just about the costs. Those
working with hospitals are trying to make sure emergency rooms are actually
being used for emergencies, because this affects how much time people spend
waiting to get treatment. Medical professionals say emergency rooms should
really only be used for urgent situations where a person needs medical
attention, like a broken bone or a heart attack. Instead, uninsured people
are filling up emergency rooms with chronic illnesses that could have been
handled by seeing a primary care doctor.
Hospital administrators in the Grand Strand
tell WMBF News the top type of problems that are being treated are psychiatric
issues and substance abuse. The goal is to get them the right kind of help they
need at a price everyone can afford.
"We can't continue to have patients manage
their healthcare through the emergency room," said Williford. "It's too costly
and it's not good for them in terms of their health. They can be more healthy
in the long run if they have regular visits."
The healthy outcomes plan partners with six
area non-profit care providers to help. This pilot program will go on for one
year, and the state will evaluate it periodically to see if it's actually
working. If it turns out to be successful, then the program could be expanded
to help more people.
Monday, December 9 2013 3:27 PM EST2013-12-09 20:27:38 GMT
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