Hospitals profitable but skimp on charity care in North Carolina

Many of North Carolina's hospitals are reporting healthy profits, but have been skimping on charity care for their poorest patients, the McClatchy News Service reported.

For example, UNC Hospitals and the Duke University Health System have reported record profits. But at the same time they have hiked their fees and aggressively went after patient debt, McClatchy reported.

"What are they going to do with all the money...? They can't give it to shareholders," Kevin Schulman, a professor of medicine and business at Duke University, told the news service.

The large majority of the state's not-for-profit hospitals spent less than 3 percent of their budgets on charity care, and about a third spent less than 2 percent, noted The Charlotte Observer. Most of those are in rural areas and report losing money, but their patient base is often uninsured and impoverished.

Caldwell Memorial Hospital, which spends less than 2 percent on charity care, has instead sent bill collectors after patient Rachael Shehan, who has virtually no income and a serious respiratory problem, according to the Observer.

"I know the hospital isn't going to help me with my bills," she told the newspaper.

For more information:
- read the McClatchy News Service article
- check out the Observer article