“To me it’s a scary proposition,” she said. “You know, you go to the emergency room, that’s $1,500, I think, to walk in the door. We are the primary medical home for a lot of people who — they wouldn’t get medical care if they didn’t come here because they can’t afford to go to a private provider.”
That rate is estimated at closer to a third in Buchanan County, St. Joseph Social Welfare Board CFO Deborah Borchers said.
Many residents pass up important exams and appointments because they can’t afford the expenses, Borchers said.
“A broken leg or something is going to be painful, you’re going to have to take care of that,” she said. “But you know, they’ll come in here and (say), ‘I’ve had dizzy spells on and off for a while.’ We had a patient come in here one time who was experiencing back pain, and it ended up being a heart attack — and he had been having pain a while.”
That allows patients to pay little or no expense for services, Borchers said.
Most of the office’s funds come from grants, money from St. Joseph and Buchanan County, and donations.
The process benefits other institutions as well as patients, she said. Giving patients an option where they don’t have to go to the ER every time means Mosaic Life Care doesn’t have to incur extra costs or pass it on to taxpayers.
The number of averted emergency visits provided by the welfare office has saved Mosaic more than $2 million in expenses, according to data from the welfare office.
Medical visits aren’t the only services that get pushed off during financial struggles. It also is common for people to forego medication, Borchers said. “If they can’t afford it, ‘That’s something I’ll maybe take every other day,’ or something to that effect,” she said.
The social welfare office provides service to around 1,900 patients each year, and has been providing services to the St. Joseph community for 109 years, Borchers said.
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