How much does your hospital spend on charity care?

Most hospitals in North Carolina are non-profit and receive big sales and property tax breaks. The hospitals are then expected to act like non-profits and provide various community benefits.

Hospitals in our state help fund community clinics and provide medical education among other services. And now, more than ever, hospitals are operating as safety net medical providers for people who fall through the fractures of our broken system.

For people without the means to pay, hospitals provide care and write off the charge. The North Carolina Hospital Association posts “community benefit reports” on its website that describe how much hospitals spend on free care, and the latest numbers are out.

You can see a big uptick in charity care for 2008. Duke Hospital, for example, provided $18.5 million in charity care in 2007 compared to $28.5 million in 2008. Presbyterian Healthcare provided $19.6 million in charity care for 2007 compared to $29.2 million in 2008.

Hugh Tilson at the North Carolina Hospital Association, Bill Roper at UNC, and Bill Atkinson at WakeMed publicly support health care reform this year. With these staggering numbers all of our state’s hospital leaders should be equally vocal in calling for action.

4 Comments

  1. Kimberly

    August 6, 2009 at 7:28 am

    Charity Care Programs are great, if a person can get qualified for it. Hospitals only write off unpaid medical bills after they ruin the credit of the person that ran up the bill and can’t afford to pay for it, after they send that person through collections and eventually, it does get written off. That doesn’t mean that the hospital ceases to stop collection procedures though. I still get harrassing phone calls from collection agents for the hospital bills that I ran up from March to June of 2008 that I can’t afford to pay. If a person can’t afford to pay with money, they still pay with loss of credit and harrassment not just from the collection agencies but each time they go back in to that hospital. Only the E.R. is required to provide care regardless of ability to pay, hospital clinics can still tell patients that there is nothing more that they can do to help that patient because of inability to pay.

    Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the Charity Care Programs in that they provide assistance to those who qualify. For the rest of us though, we still fall through the cracks and are left suffering without access to affordable health care. We could fix the systems many problems simply by passing truly comprehensive Health Care Reform that includes a National Public Health Plan option that has a sliding fee scale based on income and regulates the health insurance and medical industries.

  2. Lady

    August 6, 2009 at 11:06 am

    I agree that Charity Care Programs are great, and I also support the statement that the procedures of obtaining debt collectors to collect debt ruins credit status and the harassing collection calls are to numberous to count. The collection agency files civil lawsuits and if they can’t get the amount that they want from you, sue you for your property. If you don’t have property that they can’t get, the collection agency continue to file complaints which they bill the individual for. This filing of complaints increases the amount of money that they are suing for on the behalf of the hospital, which each time can amount to $200. It is hard trying to make payments to the effect of trying to eliminate the debt, but the collection agency takes that cost first, and the original debt is still there. Three times I have been file papers against with in the last three years. Each time it appeals that I have finish paying the collection agency, they file papers against me and the orginal debt is untouched with the $50 a month I have made. Whenever I missed payment or fail to pay the agreed amount, the calls and papers are served starts over again. Now I pay to the clerk of court, but I still get harrassing calls and intimidating letters. If I receive another letter or served papers, that’s it for trying to take care of a bill that I can’t afford to pay, but trying to pay my way, so that I can get some sort of health care.
    If the hospital does write off the cost after this kind of abuse is handed out to the patient, they are only supporting the abusive behavior of the people that they pay to put pressure on the people that can’t afford health care.

  3. AdamL

    August 6, 2009 at 11:45 am

    Thanks for the comment. If you want to talk about your particular situation send me an email at adam.linker@ncjustice.org.

  4. Quuestions=Power

    August 9, 2009 at 7:06 am

    hospital bonds pay tax exempt interest to the rich folks. Wonder if there have been any downgradings because of impending changes in hospital reimbursement????