SC hospitals begin outreach program to uninsured

South Carolina's hospitals will launch an integrated program this week intended to reduce the number of uninsured patients who make emergency room visits for care, reported WMBF News.

The program, known as Healthy Outcomes, will target 8,500 residents of the state who lack health insurance and have been known to frequent ERs for care. The state's hospitals will engage in extensive outreach with these people, including ensuring they have better access to primary care services so they can avoid visiting the emergency room.

Healthy Outcomes is being coordinated by the state's Medicaid agency, which assigned each hospital in the state a specific number of uninsured patients to target, the Associated Press reported. They range from 50 to 750 patients per hospital, depending on the size and location of the facility. Much of the primary care will be provided through community clinics.

The program is critical for South Carolina. It will not expand its Medicaid program as part of the Affordable Care Act, putting acute care providers at greater financial risk from uninsured inpatients, particularly given pending cuts in disproportionate share payments from the Medicare and Medicaid programs. The state also recently cut its own Medicaid payments to providers.

"We can't continue to have patients manage their healthcare through the emergency room," Angela Williford, vice president of quality for the Conway Medical Center on its eastern coast, told WMBF News. "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."

To learn more:
- read the WMBF news story
- here's the Associated Press story

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