Cleveland Clinic cuts charity care, blames economy

In an effort to cut costs during the still sluggish economy, the Cleveland Clinic will stop providing care to uninsured patients who can't pay, aren't eligible for government assistance and who live more than 150 miles from Cleveland, reports the Plain Dealer.

The cuts, to go into effect Jan. 1, apply to people who earn between 250 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level. Those who earn less are eligible for other aid and those who earn more are expected to pay, Clinic spokeswoman Eileen Sheil told the newspaper. The Ohio-based health system will also ask insured patients how they intend to pay for care not covered by their health plans before they undergo a procedure.

At the Clinic, the percentage of insured patients who don't pay their share of their bills has risen from 43 to 50 percent over the past few years, noted Sheil. Just last year, the health system spent roughly $120 million on free or discounted care--a $20 million increase from the year before.

Unfortunately, the Clinic is not alone, as hospitals across the nation are experiencing an increase in uncompensated charity care and bad debt, according to Becker's Hospital Review.

"Uncompensated dollars have to be made up by someone else in order to have the hospital maintain its financial viability," Senior Vice President for the Kansas Hospital Association Fred Lucky told the Kansas Health Institute. Hospitals usually transfer uncompensated care losses to insured patients via inflated rates charged to insurance companies, he noted.

For more:
- read the Plain Dealer article
- here's the Kansas Health Institute piece
- check out the Becker's article