Louisville’s University Hospital limits care for non-local patients

University Hospital in Louisville has been forced to stop providing some free or deeply discounted care to patients who live outside Jefferson County. The number of low-income patients coming to the hospital from surrounding counties created a $20 million shortfall last year, “jeopardizing University’s primary obligation to treat Louisville’s poor,” The Courier-Journal‘s Patrick Howington reports.

Out-of-town patients who want elective procedures such as colonoscopies now have to pay up to 70 percent of the charge. They also must show that they tried to get care in their home county first and may have a longer wait than Jefferson County patients. The changes do not affect patients who come seeking care for trauma, high-risk pregnancies, strokes or cancer care.

University Hospital is generally the facility of last resort for low-income patients in the region. The training hospital for the University of Louisville, it receives extra state funding to help pay for patients who can’t pay for themselves. Last year, the university got nearly $69 million to cover indigent care, but that care cost it $89 million. The $20 million shortfall is five times higher than 2005’s shortfall of $3.7 million.

Last year, University gave treatment to 767 Hardin County patients, compared to 441 five years ago; 221 Warren County patients compared to 134 in 2005; and 200 Hart County patients, almost twice the number from 2005. (Photo of patient DeEdra King and physical therapist Cathy Gerrish by Aaron Borton) The economy is likely to blame, Howington reports. “The economic downtown cost many people their jobs, and thus their health insurance, and contributed to a surge in uncompensated care at many Kentucky hospitals.” (Read more)

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