Hospitals' bad debt rises as population grows

North Dakota is in the midst of an oil boom and has the lowest unemployment rate in the country. But the influx of newcomers to take the wellspring of new jobs is causing uncompensated care costs for the state's hospitals to skyrocket, reported the Williston Herald.

The new patients--many of whom have irregular addresses and can't be properly billed or may lack insurance--have prompted providers such as Tioga Medical Center to request co-payments from patients prior to rendering non-essential care, according to the article. The hospital's bad debt has doubled over the past five years.

"We knew just about everybody, and there's a lot of new people in our service area right now. A lot of good people," Tioga CEO Randall Pederson told the Herald. "We want to be here to help meet their healthcare needs and in order to do that, we need to be paid."

A similar fate has befallen Mercy Medical Center, whose bad debt has jumped 130 percent, although the hospital has not yet resorted to pre-care collection, according to the newspaper.

Yet more hospitals across the country are demanding upfront payments as a way to cut down on crowds in their emergency room and to reduce uncompensated care, according to American Medical News

According to the Healthcare Financial Management Association, half of the nation's hospitals now charge upfront fees for ER visits, with hospital chain HCA among them.

To learn more:
- read the Williston Herald article
- here's the American Medical News article