Hospitals stuck with costly, lingering patients

Hospitals in New York City provide millions of dollars in non-reimbursed care for patients well enough to leave but can't be discharged, reports The New York Times. These patients may be illegal immigrants, lack health insurance or lack suitable housing.

Because state law prohibits public hospitals from discharging patients to homeless shelters or to the street, New York hospitals have been housing hundreds of such patients for months or even years, the article notes. With nowhere to go, a lingering patient can cost a hospital more than $100,000 a year.

"Many of those individuals no longer need that care, but because they have no resources and many have no family here, we, unfortunately, are caring for them in a much more expensive setting than necessary based on their clinical need," LaRay Brown, a senior vice president for the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, told the Times.

With Medicaid not covering continuing care for immigrants, hospitals serving regions with large populations of illegal immigrants, such as California, Florida and Texas, could find themselves facing a similar challenge, according to the article. Discharge planning and reimbursement require proof of insurance or legal U.S. residency, which could leave those hospitals with no place to send patients fit for discharge and an added drain on resources.

To learn more:
- read the NYT article