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Local hospitals part of $39.3B in U.S. uncompensated care

By , - Last modified: January 9, 2012 at 12:07 PM

U.S. hospitals spent more than $39.3 billion on uncompensated care in 2010, according to an association report.

Many midstate hospitals contribute to that number, whether through free care provided, financial assistance programs or unreimbursed services, hospital spokespeople said.

The Chicago-based American Hospital Association last week released the data from its Annual Survey of Hospitals. The report covered 4,985 hospitals, with 5.8 percent of the total expenses reported going toward uncompensated care. The association defined uncompensated care as the sum of charity care and bad debt.

Ephrata Community Hospital in Lancaster County provided more than $9 million in uncompensated care for patients in its fiscal year ending in June, spokeswoman Joanne Eshelman said. That number is up compared with more than $5 million provided in fiscal year 2010, she said.

The increase in uncompensated care reflects how the economic downturn has affected all hospitals, she said.

The nonprofit Holy Spirit Health System in Cumberland County provided more than $75 million to the community in the fiscal year ending in June 2011, spokeswoman Lori Moran said. The number includes uncompensated care, charity care and subsidies for Medicare, Medical Assistance and behavioral health services, she said. Health activities such as screenings, health fairs and education events are also a part of the $75 million, she said.

York Township-based WellSpan Health, the parent company of York Hospital and Gettysburg Hospital, provided $18.4 million in free care to patients who participated in its charity care program in 2010, spokesman Barry Sparks said. Another $23.4 million in uncompensated care went to patients who did not participate in the charity care program at the nonprofit system, he said. The health system also saw $122.6 million in costs for Medicare and Medicaid, to cover amounts that were larger than what the government systems reimburse for, he said.

At Lancaster General Health, in the fiscal year ending in June 2011, the health system had $11.2 million in charitable care, spokesman John Lines said. The health system, which includes Lancaster General Hospital, also reported about $64.8 million in unpaid cost of services, the difference between what the hospital provided in care and what it was reimbursed for, he said.

Although the amount of uncompensated care has risen in previous years, it seems to be trending about the same for the first six months of this fiscal year compared with last year, Lines said.

Providing uncompensated care is part of the nonprofit system's mission of providing care to everyone regardless of their ability to pay; it's why the hospital was started more than 100 years ago, he said.

"The health of the county is critical to our economic vitality and future," Lines said, "and we need to do whatever we can to increase the value of the care we provide so that people are able to afford it and access it."

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