Uncompensated care still a costly problem for hospitals

Even while the Affordable Care Act is being rolled out, hospitals are still reporting losing a significant amount of money to uncompensated care.

As reported by Fierce Health Finance, U.S. hospitals provided an additional $4.8 billion worth of care in 2012 without being paid for it, bringing the total measured in that year to $45.9 billion. In fact, uncompensated care accounted for 6.1 percent of total expenses. It has not been that high since 1999. 

There are several theories as to why this is the case. Some suggest that it is related to the fact that about half of U.S. states have declined to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Other reports point to changes in insurance plans. As more people enroll in less expensive plans that have higher out-of-pocket costs, there is a chance that some will leave behind unpaid bills.

Regardless of the cause, hospitals need to be wary of this possibility, since uncompensated care is so costly. Another article on Fierce Health Finance pointed out that some institutions have begun to overhaul their processes for collecting payments.

"They are really stepping up their point of service collections, training and educating their frontline staff in a way they really hadn't done previously for how to ask for money," Bill Hannah, a principal with the consulting firm DHG Healthcare, told the news source. "We are seeing folks being much more creative in how they will set up payment plans, offering point of service discounts on self-pay portion where they can, utilizing new technologies to try to identify deductibles, co-pays, what those are."

It is also important to determine the risk levels of these patients. Hospitals should perform thorough credit assessments to avoid losing significant sums of money.

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