Posts Tagged ‘hospital’

Hospitals Give to Charity Too

March 11, 2010

The Florida Times-Union recently ran a story about how much Jacksonville-area hospitals write off in “charity care” every year.

Not surprisingly, the amount increased dramatically last year over 2008.  St. Vincent’s had the biggest increase at almost 30%.  Orange Park saw a 19% increase, while Memorial soaked up more than a 15% increase ($133 million).

“Charity care” simply means the cost of treating uninsured patients who come to the emergency room and can’t pay their bills.  The hospitals are required by law to treat these patients, but I suspect that a good portion of them don’t really have emergencies in the traditional sense of the term; they have emergencies in the sense that they are desperate for medical care but can’t afford to see a doctor.

Some of these people have lost their job and the health insurance that went along with it. With no income, they can’t afford to pay the premium to extend their coverage through COBRA, even with the government subsidy.  Some of them have a job that doesn’t provide health insurance, and yet they don’t qualify for Medicaid.  Some of them are unable to work because of their health problems, and they’re in the midst of the excruciatingly long application process for Social Security disability benefits or SSI.

We see people like this in our office every day.  In Duval County, we are lucky to have the indigent care program at Shands, which covers many low-income people who don’t have insurance.  This is a taxpayer-funded program that fills in the gaps in the health insurance system for people who live in Jacksonville.  For people who live in the surrounding counties, the resources are far more limited, making it impossible for many to get any kind of treatment.

Our patchwork health care system leaves a lot of people out, and the numbers are growing every day with the downturn in the economy. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I see the problems in my office every day.  The status quo just doesn’t seem to be working for everyone.