California Hospitals Collect More From Uninsured Patients

Armen Hareyan's picture

California hospitals collect a higherpercentage of their listed charges from uninsured patients than from Medicare,according to a study published on Tuesday in Health Affairs, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. For the study, researchersfrom RAND and the University ofSouthern Californiaanalyzed data submitted to the state by hospitals from 2001 to 2005. The studyfound that from 2001 to 2002, hospitals collected on average 18% more of theircharges from uninsured patients than from Medicare, and from 2004 to 2005,hospitals collected on average 20% more of the charges from uninsured patients.

Researchers concluded that the net prices paid by uninsured patients tohospitals increased from 2001 to 2005 because the uninsured paid the same ormore than Medicare, and during that period, Medicare increased payments tohospitals by 13%. Glenn Melnick, a USC professor and RAND economist, said,"Hospitals have started to adjust prices to the uninsured somewhat, butnot substantially," adding, "The study shows they continue to raiseprices to the uninsured during this period."


However, hospital officials "criticized the study for failing to reflectrecent changes the industry has implemented to provide some relief for theuninsured," according to the Chronicle. In addition, consumeradvocates said that because the study relied on averages, it does not reflectthat some individuals "diligently pay large bills while others don't payat all" and that some can pay two to four times the rate paid by Medicare,according to Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California.

The study was funded by the USC Center for Health Financing, Policy and Management and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (Colliver, San Francisco Chronicle, 2/5).

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