Community health centers flex their economic value

Saturday , July 19, 2014 - 1:30 PM

Standard-Examiner correspondent

OGDEN -- A new economic impact analysis shows Utah’s community health centers contributed $142 million to the state’s economy last year.

The analysis, completely by Capital Link, a non-profit organization, listed the community, economic and tax impact of health centers across the state in 2013.

Utah’s 13 health center organizations, operating 40 clinics across the state, including Midtown Community Health Center in Ogden, contributed $142 million to the Utah economy, directly supporting 861 full-time jobs and generating 545 jobs in other industries.

An additional $17 million in tax revenue was generated through employee compensation, proprietor income, indirect business taxes, households, and corporations, of which nearly $6 million went directly to state and local governments, the report shows.

The report says health centers purchase goods and services from local businesses and engage in capital development projects, acting as a catalyst for significant economic revitalization and boosting tax revenue within their communities.

Alan Pruhs, executive director of the Association for Utah Community Health, said not only do Utah's health centers provide critical access to quality, affordable health care services in both urban and rural communities, they also serve as strong economic engines, directly and indirectly supporting the local businesses in those communities.

Advocates say community health centers provide high-quality, cost-effective, patient-centered care to vulnerable populations. Such centers serve one in seven Medicaid beneficiaries, almost one in three individuals in poverty, and one in five low-income, uninsured people. According to the report, 127,990 patients were served in Utah health centers last year, 59,000 of whom were uninsured. More than 417,000 medical, dental and behavioral health visits were recorded, with an estimated annual savings to the hosting communities of $162 million, or $1,263 per patient, in overall health care costs. The report says community health centers are a preferable alternative to unnecessary emergency room visits, expensive specialty services and avoidable hospital admissions

"We use this report to show our presence and effectiveness," said Midtown Community Health Center executive director, Lisa Nichols. "People sometimes think of community health centers as small non-profits providing care that is lesser in value or quality than other health care systems."

Nichols said community health centers provide high-quality care to a high proportion of Utah’s uninsured and under-served community members.

"We are a vital, valuable, and contributing component of the medical community as well as a legitimate place for medical training and employment," Nichols said. "Midtown uses the sort of data in this report to help shape beliefs about health centers and to dispel the myths."

Sign up for e-mail news updates.