To eliminate financial burdens for both payers and providers, organizations should turn to health clinics that provide primary care for low-income patients, according to researchers from Penn State Altoona.
Health clinics can help save money by reducing emergency visits, according to the three-year study, which showed more than $201,000 in annual savings due to fewer ER visits and hospital admissions.
The study focused on Partnering for Health Services, an Altoona-based clinic, for its results. The clinic offers free and paid insurance plans, depending on a patient's income level. Patients with a household income of up to 150 percent of the federal poverty level have no fee, while those with income up to 300 percent pay $99 a month for nonurgent care.
Compared to two other fee-based clinics in the area, Partnering for Health Services treated an equal average number of chronically ill patients, who had lower hospital admission rates and better overall health, according to the study.
"Since the patient has a place to go and can have treatments tailored to their chronic illnesses, they tend to go more often and that can lead to better health outcomes," Mark Agee, professor of economics at Penn State Altoona, and a researcher on the study, said in the research announcement.
The findings reinforce federal calls for insurers to expand access to health clinics, safety-net hospitals and other providers that serve low-income, medically underserved individuals.
Meanwhile, Kaiser Permanente has been experimenting with an integrated model to better coordinate care between its hospitals and clinics to cut costs and improve care. With its own health plan receiving a fixed payment per member, Kaiser created incentives to keep people out of the hospital, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.
- here's the Penn State Altoona announcement