GREENFIELD — A health clinic for low-income Hancock County residents soon will open as a collaboration among Hancock Regional Hospital, the Hancock Physician Network and an organization backed by a famous Indianapolis native.
The hospital is working with the Jane Pauley Community Health Center to open the facility at 1117 N. State St, in the strip mall north of the hospital campus that also houses Chicago’s Pizza and a dialysis center.
The hospital will pay $225,000 to prepare the space. The Pauley Center will rent the storefront property and use Hancock Physician Network professionals.
The organization is named after Pauley, a well-known television journalist who graduated in 1968 from Warren Central High School. The Jane Pauley Community Health Center opened its first clinic in 2009 in Warren Township in collaboration with the Community Health Network. It now has three clinics and four school-based wellness centers in the Indianapolis area.
The Greenfield clinic is scheduled to see its first patients in the fall.
Rob Matt, the hospital’s vice president of business development, said the collaborative effort will serve a significant portion of the county’s population that struggles to find health care when they need it.
“Prior to the Affordable Care Act, 16 percent of the patients we treated were either uninsured or underinsured, and that’s what started our search to provide health care to that group of people,” Matt said.
All too often, patients lacking insurance or primary care physicians resorted to visiting Hancock Regional’s emergency department for primary care, many times for episodes that had grown into serious issues without prior preventive care.
In addition to stretching the hospital’s emergency department, providing the unreimbursed care was expensive.
In 2013 alone, the hospital wrote off approximately $14 million in charity care, uncompensated care and bad debt, Matt said.
Patient figures from the Jane Pauley Center also underscore the need for care for those who are uninsured.
According to statistics from the organization, its first clinic had 461 patient visits in 2009. By 2013, that number had grown to more than 23,000, ranging from newborns to elderly adults.
The center accepts most commercial medical insurance, Medicaid and Medicare; and it offers a sliding fee scale discount based on family income for patients who have no health insurance coverage. It also offers prescription assistance for qualifying patients.
HRH officials noticed the growing role the Pauley centers were filling.
“There was a tremendous exodus of Medicaid patients out of Hancock County to the Indianapolis Jane Pauley centers to get care,” Matt said.
Marc Hackett, executive director of Jane Pauley Community Health Center, explained only one of the three available Medicaid programs was being accepted by health-care providers in Hancock County, forcing those with the other plans to “over-utilize” emergency departments for family practice at Community Health Network in Indianapolis, with whom the group also has an affiliation.
That glut of emergency room traffic from Hancock County became the impetus for opening talks with Hancock Regional about two years ago to establish a clinic in Hancock County, Hackett said.
Additionally, being on limited incomes, many patients who needed the care couldn’t afford to travel to Marion County.
“We weren’t fixing the problem,” Matt said. “So having this facility in Hancock County is huge.”
As currently designed, the first phase of the new clinic will include six examination rooms, a lab, OB/GYN room and facilities for behavioral care.
“Behavioral care will be a big component,” Matt said.
Phase two will be an expansion of the facility when it is needed.
“We’ve built lots of momentum, and we’re excited about getting there,” Hackett said. “Our goal is to provide primary care right there in Greenfield and Hancock County.”
Matt said the collaboration will add another non-core revenue stream for the hospital and, more importantly, ease the financial drain on an already stressed emergency department.
Jane Pauley facilities treat acute health issues such as flu, colds, infections and sore throats; chronic conditions, including high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes; and provide physical exams and assessments, immunizations, lab work and women’s services.
Initially, the services will be provided with Hancock Physicians Network doctors and practitioners, and that group has been hiring to fill the spots.
Bill Barteau, Hancock Physicians Network president, said his group’s primary role is to help recruit providers as well as support staff for the new facility.
In the end, Matt said, the time had come both as a cost issue and community health concern to address affordable and low-cost health-care services for Hancock County.
“It’s more effective to provide health care where it’s needed rather than turn a blind eye,” he said.