JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — According to a new report from the Missouri Hospital Association, the state’s hospitals provided $482 million in charity care in 2010, an increase of 30 percent from 2008. However, charity care is only 22 percent of the total community benefits provided. When added to other financial contributions to the community — such as free clinics, donations, health care professional education, bad debt and unpaid costs of Medicare and Medicaid — hospitals’ total community benefit was more than $2.3 billion.
“It can be hard to imagine what $482 million in charity care looks like, given the size of the outlay,” said Herb B. Kuhn, MHA president and CEO. “To illustrate the value, imagine it this way — $482 million is the equivalent of 1,742 free emergency department visits daily, or 636,000 per year. Alternatively, the sum would cover hospital care for 126 patients daily, or 46,000 days annually, or could be translated as the equivalent of 587 days of in-hospital care every day, or 214,000 days of care annually.”
Hospitals’ total uncompensated care is comprised of both charity care and bad debt. In 2010, the 128 hospitals that participated in this report provided $482 million in charity care and incurred $486 million in bad debt. Combined, the cost of providing this uncompensated care is nearly $1 billion. In addition, Medicare and Medicaid often pay less than the cost of providing care. In 2010, hospitals absorbed more than $1 billion in the unpaid costs of treating Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries.
Hospitals’ community benefit investments are often driven by defined areas of local need. In 2010, hospitals donated $35 million to causes in their community and $30 million to free or reduced cost medical clinic services. In addition, hospitals contributed $274 million to education of health professionals to build and sustain the health care workforce.
“The report also points to the vital role of hospitals as economic engines in the communities they serve,” Kuhn said. “Hospital jobs and infrastructure investments have continued to add strength to the economy while other sectors were faltering.”
In 2010, Missouri hospitals added 10,000 jobs at a time when the private sector shed 13,400 jobs. The 128 Missouri hospitals participating in the 2010 Community Investment Report provided jobs to 116,527 full-time equivalent employees with salaries and benefits totaling $7.7 billion in 2010. Capital investment in 2010 totaled $1.2 billion. These salaries and capital expenditures support significant economic activity at the local and state level and create jobs and investment in other economic sectors.
“Hospitals provide lifesaving care to the communities they serve 24/7,” Kuhn said, “and they provide economic life and vitality. The 2010 Community Investment Report demonstrates why strong communities need strong hospitals.”