Trend: Atlanta hospitals face big uninsured costs

Like many other regions, greater Atlanta is facing a huge problem with uninsured patients. But in some ways, its problems may be worse than many other metros. According to the George Health Policy Center, there are more than 800,000 consumers without medical insurance living in metro Atlanta. This is creating a huge strain at many area hospitals, which struggle to cope with the burdens imposed by uninsured and low-paid patients. Hospitals are also being smacked by consumer-driven healthcare, with patients sometimes unprepared to pay the large deductibles such plans impose.

According to research Billian's HealthDATA Group, half of the 39 area hospitals it tracks reported a net loss during the most recent reporting period. This springs, largely, from the half-billion dollars these hospitals spend each year caring for the medically indigent. This expense is up 12 percent from the last year.

The area's growing population isn't helping any, as it's not helping crowded hospitals and overwhelmed staff. While 17 hospitals have closed over the past 10 years, Atlanta added more people than any other metro area in the U.S. from 2000 to 2006, further straining the system. If 1035-bed Grady Memorial Hospital, the area's largest hospital, is compromised or closed, things could get much worse. Meanwhile, Grady Memorial is currently facing tremendous financial problems.

To learn more about the situation:
- read this Atlanta Business Chronicle piece

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