Florida hospital restricts charity care, citing financial strain

Manatee Memorial Hospital in Bradenton, Fla., is revising its charity care policies due to funding shortfalls, a move the investor-owned hospital called a "difficult, yet responsible, fiscally prudent decision," according to a June 3 report by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Part of King of Prussia, Pa.-based Universal Health Services, Manatee Memorial Hospital is a 300-bed facility staffed by over 800 physicians, residents, and allied health professionals.

In May, the hospital informed stakeholders it would no longer accept patients enrolled in Manatee County's healthcare plan or unfunded referrals from the We Care Manatee nonprofit for uninsured, low-income county residents, effective June 1, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported. Emergency room access will be maintained in compliance with the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act.

"Our projected deficit from unfunded care, beyond charity care, amounts to several millions of dollars," Manatee Memorial wrote in a May letter to stakeholders, as reported by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. "The significant cost of unreimbursed care is unsustainable. We continue to be a supportive community partner and will maintain open discussions with Manatee County regarding solutions, however, we need to make this difficult, yet responsible, fiscally prudent decision."

In April, Manatee Memorial Hospital CEO Tom McDougal indicated the hospital's funding for indigent care services was unsustainable. He noted that the hospital's costs for charity, indigent and uninsured care rose by 47% over two years, reaching $21.2 million in 2023, with an additional $2.9 million in uncollectable care. Last year, the hospital received $2.7 million in indigent funding from Manatee County.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I simply can't afford to keep doing this without being compensated for it," Mr. McDougal said at the April 16 public county commission meeting. "It takes away care from other patients." 

McDougal made his remarks at a commission meeting focused on undocumented immigration, acknowledging that specific figures linking undocumented immigrants to the rise in charity care costs were not available. Six percent of patients in the hospital emergency room self-disclosed their status as undocumented immigrants, which Mr. McDougal believes is an undercount. 

The latest changes follow Mr. McDougal's "very uncomfortable decision," as he put it, in February to stop oncology services and some surgeries for Manatee County health plan enrollees, as the hospital's costs under the program reached $9 million in 2023, compared to the $2.7 million reimbursement from the county.

Becker's has reached out to Manatee Memorial Hospital and will update this article as or if more information is made available.

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