Conflicting definitions make it difficult to know how much hospitals really spend on caring for uninsured and underinsured patients.
Researchers with the Internal Revenue Service have published that conclusion in a report prepared in an effort to determine how well tax-exempt hospitals are doing at meeting their legal obligations to serve the poor, meet the general medical needs of their communities, and organize public health and health education efforts.
The researchers received with voluntary, unverified survey forms from a non-random sample of 487 hospitals.
Almost all of the hospitals said they provide at least some “uncompensated care,” and only about 10% said they ever refuse to provide care because patients are unable to pay, the IRS researchers report.
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Only 4% of hospitals said they require patients to make payment arrangements before receiving emergency care, and 14% said they require patients to make arrangements before receiving inpatient care.
Uncompensated care amounts to an average of 7.44% of the participating hospitals’ revenue, and the hospitals spent an average of $2,510 per patient visit for patients who received uncompensated hospital care, the participating hospitals estimated.