Oregon hospitals improved bottom line, cut charity care

During the depths of the Great Recession, Oregon's hospitals as a whole were able to improve their bottom line, in part by trimming charity care for patients, The Oregonian reported.

According to a report by the Oregon Health Authority, the median margin for the state's hospitals rose from 2.2 percent in 2008 to 4.6 percent in 2011--a period of time that included the global financial crisis, millions of lost jobs, and a weak economic rebound.

During that same period, the percentage of charity care as a proportion of hospital revenue shrunk from 4.8 percent to 4.4 percent, The Oregonian reported.

All but two of the state's 58 hospitals are not-for-profits. And while nationwide spending on community benefits--which include charity care--have risen in recent years, states such as Montana have also reported drops in free care they provide to patients unable to pay their bill.

However, the drop in Oregon may also be partly explained by the expansion of the Oregon Health Plan, which is funded by Medicaid. Enrollment grew from just under 500,000 in 2009 to more than 600,000 in 2011, an increase of more than 20 percent, The Oregonian reported.

Moreover, patient demand also appears to have dropped. According to the report, occupancy rates for the state's 58 hospitals shrunk about 5 percent from 2009 to 2011.

Meanwhile, rural hospitals are reporting losses at a far higher rate than their larger urban counterparts, according to The Oregonian.

To learn more:
- read The Oregonian article
- check out the report (.pdf)