Hospital uncompensated care costs stable--for now

U.S. hospitals provided $41.1 billion in uncompensated care in 2011, according to the American Hospital Association's latest annual survey.

The AHA looked at more than 4,900 hospitals and found that uncompensated care costs represented 5.9 percent of their total expenses in 2011. The AHA survey did not distinguish between charity care and bad debt when calculating uncompensated care costs.

In the survey, uncompensated care consists of hospitals' bad debt and charity care but excludes underpayments from Medicaid and Medicare, noted AHA News Now.

These latest figures are up $1.8 billion from 2010, when hospitals provided $39.3 billion in uncompensated care. That year, uncompensated care accounted for 5.8 percent of total hospital expenses, FierceHealthFinance previously reported.

The percentage of hospital expenses for uncompensated care has stayed relatively flat at around 6 percent for more than 20 years. However, the combination of individual states rejecting Medicaid expansion and cuts to disproportionate hospital share payments could send uncompensated care costs soaring $53.3 billion by 2019.

For hospitals in North Dakota, bad debt has been skyrocketing, thanks to an influx of new residents.

Meanwhile, at New Jersey hospitals, the value of charity care provided in 2011 fell 3 percent from the prior year. The $1 billion worth of charity care was down about $33.5 million from 2010 levels, which could reflect a national improvement of the economy.

For more:
- here's the AHA News Now brief
- check out the annual survey (.pdf)