State agency makes health center data easy to find

jholleman@thestate.comMay 7, 2014 

Eau Claire Cooperative Health Center is the busiest of the 17 federally qualified health centers in South Carolina and gets good bang for its buck, according to a new set of health data released Wednesday by the S.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

The state agency, which compiled hospital financial data in an easy-to-find format in December, now has done the same with information from the state’s 17 federally qualified health centers. It’s all available at schealthdata.org.

The update “is another step in the ongoing conversation about how we deliver and pay for care in South Carolina and across the country,” said Tony Keck, director of the state agency.

These first two sets of data released are more geared to health care administrators, waste watchdogs and government policymakers. Consumers will be more interested in the next set of data released, which will detail costs of some outpatient procedures. HHS says it has gathered some of that information and is verifying its accuracy before putting it online.

The federally qualified health centers receive federal government grants as well as enhanced Medicaid and Medicare payments to provide care for low income patients. Uninsured patients pay for services at the centers on a sliding scale based on their annual income. Much of the information released Wednesday was gleaned from federal reports the centers must provide each year.

Eau Claire is the dominant federally qualified health center in the Midlands and the largest in the state, with 49,871 patients making 173,777 visits in 2012. Volume apparently leads to savings because Eau Claire also has the lowest cost per visit ($126) among the 17 centers in the state and the fourth lowest total cost per patient ($439).

Other interesting notes from the data:

•  The number of homeless patients at Eau Claire’s clinics in the Midlands went from six in 2010 to 1,771 in 2011 to 3,770 in 2012.

•  Eau Claire patients with diabetes rose from 7.8 percent in 2010 to 10.7 percent in 2012.

•  Eau Claire patients with hypertension rose from 15.5 percent in 2010 to 17.9 percent in 2012.

•  Eau Claire patients without insurance shrank from 27.4 percent in 2010 to 24.7 percent in 2012.

•  Eau Claire reported $21,718,280 in revenue and $21,894,192 in expenses in 2012, for a net loss of $175,912.

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