Chicago hospitals steer uninsured to affordable care

The University of Chicago Hospitals has undertaken a program to steer uninsured patients away from the emergency room and toward other medical facilities that can provide more affordable care. The "Healthy Community Access Program" seeks to educate patients about their options for follow-up treatment after receiving care in the ER. The program is backed by a two-year, $1.5 million in federal grant.

As FierceHealthcare readers know, emergency room treatment is far more costly than care from a clinic. For instance, while treating a pulled muscle at a clinic might cost $100, it may cost $1,200 to treat the same injury in the ER. Though this raises healthcare costs across the board, but it's hard to blame uninsured patients for coming to the ER because most patients don't know where else to turn.

The University of Chicago's program links patients with a "medical home" where future visits can be handled for less money and without the long ER wait. "This is a novel approach for a private hospital that is mutually beneficial for the patient, the primary care provider, the hospital and the health system as a whole," David Carvalho, deputy director of the office of policy, planning and statistics for the Illinois Department of Public Health, told the Chicago Tribune.

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