Managing the Problem of Uncompensated Care

Managing the Problem of Uncompensated CareMay 6, 2015 by Vickie Anenberg

Uncompensated care is an ongoing problem hospitals and healthcare systems have been attempting to manage for decades. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is helping to face this by making affordable health insurance available to a higher percentage of the population under the age of 65. To date, the program appears to be achieving this goals as the number of uninsured continues to decline.  

However, the percentage of families and individuals who are now underinsured has increased due to opting for high-deductible insurance plans that feature low monthly premiums. As a result, the deductible threshold can easily range from $3,000 to $7,000 for these plans to where paying just to need healthcare can become all but possible.  

The Commonwealth Fund has posted an article that paints the problem of uncompensated care in very broad terms. It can serve to help healthcare executives understand the scope of the problem, and where it is most severe. For example, the statistics noted discuss that the percentage of uninsured and underinsured residents is lowest in Massachusetts at 14 percent, while in states such as Idaho, Florida, Nevada, New Mexico and Texas, the rate can climb up to 38 percent.

There does not appear to be a single solution that can mitigate the universal problem of uncompensated care. However, HealthLeaders Media has posted an article featuring one promising approach taken by Florida Health, headquartered out of the Orlando area.

Jeffrey D. Hurst, the senior VP of finance at Florida Health, was interviewed for the story. He commented, “We have a sophisticated workflow in place to stratify and segment populations based on things like credit worthiness and insurance plans, and that has worked fairly well for us. However, when it came to the point of having a conversation with the patient, it was still just one approach. They had to pay it all in full. Now we are giving patients different options and letting them choose what works best for them, and that is creating better relationships.”

Two of the tactics used by Florida Health include counselling patients about their debt, and no longer charging interest on unpaid balances. According to Hurst, the results have been positive, with what the system classifies as bad debt being reduced by roughly 50 percent. Read the article for more details.

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