Charity care soars 159% to $159.5M at Missouri hospitals

Charity care at Missouri hospitals soared 159 percent between 2004 and 2008, from $61.7 million to $159.5 million, according to a new report by the St. Louis Business Health Coalition. Yet, charity care stayed at 1.7 percent of operating revenue in 2008, a fairly low proportion, according to the report prepared for the Missouri Foundation for Health.

The report also suggests that lower Medicaid enrollment following eligibility cuts in 2005, along with job loss from the weak economy, increased the number of uninsured patients seeking care at hospital emergency departments during that period.

The state's smaller, less affluent rural hospitals struggled to cope with falling Medicaid revenue and growing ranks of the uninsured, the report states.

"In general, this study shows that large urban hospital systems are better able to handle an increase in uninsured patients, especially in light of changes in Medicaid and the economy," Missouri Foundation for Health Director of Health Policy Ryan Barker said in a statement, reported the St. Louis Business Journal.

With the demand for charity care rising in throughout the state, Grace Hill Health Centers, Inc., launched an innovative health center for the disadvantaged residents of North St. Louis City that promotes seeking care sooner and avoiding the costly emergency room, according to the report's executive summary.

Meanwhile, a report earlier this month found that the weak economy pushed Maine hospitals to double the amount of free care delivered during the past five years, with charity care totaling $190 million statewide in 2011. However, although many of North Carolina's hospitals are reporting healthy profits, they have been skimping on charity care for their poorest patients.

To learn more:
- here's the report (.pdf) and executive summary (.pdf)
- read the St. Louis Business Journal article