Kansas Hospitals Report Sharp Increases In Uncompensated Care
News outlets report on a dramatic increase in uncompensated care at Kansas hospitals because of the economic downturn and a new study that finds poor families with high-deductible plans often put off needed care.
Kansas Health Institute: "Hospitals are reporting sharp increases in uncompensated care - that is, health care provided to people without insurance and who can't pay. And officials at many of the hospitals, particularly urban ones, say the people they're seeing in emergency rooms seeking primary care look different than they did just a few years ago. John Bluford, chief executive of Truman Medical Center in Kansas City, Mo., said the stereotype of uncompensated care patients being mostly homeless no longer applies. A more accurate description, he said at a recent business forum on federal health reform, would be 'A 30- or 35-year-old without health insurance who two months ago worked at Sprint.' ... Bluford said Truman's uncompensated care costs doubled in the last year, up to 10 percent from the typical 5 percent. Hospital officials around Kansas reported similar trends" (Cauthon, 11/22).
In a separate article, Kansas Health Institute asks hospital administrators at a state convention about the status of uncompensated care and most reported "significant increases." The chief executive of the Coffey Health System in Burlington said "the hospital's charity or uncompensated care has jumped from about 2 percent a year to 9 percent over the past several months" (Cauthon, 11/22).
Reuters: "Poor families who sign up for high-deductible health plans are more likely to put off needed care than wealthier families, U.S. researchers said on Monday in a finding that suggests such plans may need to be revamped if they are to save health costs. A team from the University of Pennsylvania surveyed people enrolled in Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, a New England-based health insurer, and found that lower-income families were just as likely as wealthier families to understand how their plan works, but they just could not afford to get treatment. Enrollment in so-called high-deductible health plans, designed to save health costs by encouraging people to become savvy health consumers, is rising sharply as employers pass along the cost of healthcare to employees" (Steenhuysen, 11/23).