By Sarah Jane Tribble, WCPN
The Cleveland Clinic, one of the largest hospitals in the country, has cut its charity care spending — or the cost of free care provided to patients who can’t afford to pay — to $101 million in 2014 compared with $171 million in 2013.
Hospital officials credited the federal health law for the improvement. “The decrease in charity care is primarily attributable to the increase in Medicaid patients due to the expansion of Medicaid eligibility in the State of Ohio and the resulting decrease in the number of charity patients,” the hospital’s year-end financial statement reported.
That 40 percent drop spotlights a trend in how payments are changing for all providers since the health law rolled out the Medicaid expansion and subsidies that help some lower-income people purchase policies on the new insurance marketplaces, said John Palmer, spokesperson for Ohio Hospital Association.
States with expansion saw significant reductions in uncompensated care costs – which includes charity care and bad debt, such as when an insured patient doesn’t pay her share of a hospital bill.
“Now that you’re starting to see that shift from uninsured or underserved on over into health care programs such as Medicaid and the exchange, that has had a good impact,” he said. “And, obviously, it is reflective of what hospitals are experiencing with uncompensated care in the areas of charity care especially.”
The clinic is not alone. The federal Department of Health and Human Services announced last week that the number of uninsured and self-pay patients has fallen substantially in Medicaid expansion states since the program went into effect last year.
In addition, states with expansion saw significant reductions in uncompensated care costs – which includes charity care and bad debt, such as when an insured patient doesn’t pay her share of a hospital bill. Hospitals in those states had an estimated savings of $2.6 billion over that seen in non-expansion states.
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