Minnesota hospitals saw bad debt climb nearly 25% in 2017

Minnesota hospitals have seen more patients struggle to pay their medical bills, according to a report from the Minnesota Hospital Association, which has 142 member hospitals and health systems.

The report examined hospitals' uncompensated care, bad debt expense and community benefits in 2017, the most recent year for which data was available.

Three findings.

1. In 2017, Minnesota hospitals provided $691 million in uncompensated care, up 19.2 percent from the year prior. Uncompensated care includes charity care, which is care provided for free or at a discount to low-income or uninsured patients, as well as bad debt, which is money owed to hospitals that can't be recovered.

2. In 2017, Minnesota hospitals' bad debt expense increased 24.7 percent to $467 million, and charity care costs climbed 9 percent to $224 million. The hospital association said the growth of high-deductible health plans may be contributing to the bad debt growth. They also noted that the state's uninsured rate increased to 6.3 percent in 2017.

3. Minnesota hospitals provided nearly $5.2 billion in community contributions in 2017, up 6.4 percent compared to the year prior. Community contributions include health services to vulnerable or underserved individuals; financial or in-kind support of public health programs; health education screening and prevention services; medical research projects; and physician training initiatives. The hospital association said organizations provide these services via financial assistance, charity care and subsidies.

Access the full report here.

Editor's note: This story was updated on Jan. 18.


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