Kentucky hospitals list their community benefits

Kentucky hospitals estimated that they contributed nearly $2.18 billion to their communities in 2012, up from $1.96 billion the previous year, says a report compiled from information provided by the hospitals to the Kentucky Hospital Association.

The report focuses on how Kentucky’s 131 hospitals meet their community needs.

The largest community contribution reported by Kentucky hospitals in 2012 was the $658.8 million they absorbed for bad debt, or money that is owed by patients, but is not paid. Bad debt often occurs when uninsured patients make too much money to qualify for financial assistance or charity care, but still cannot afford the cost of their care, or when uninsured patients can’t afford co-pays and deductibles. This amount has almost doubled since 2008, the first year Kentucky Hospital Association did this survey, and the year that the Great Recession began.

The second largest contribution reported for 2012 was $452 million in financial assistance and charity care, which includes caring for patients regardless of the their ability to pay. This amount has more than doubled in the last three years.

KHA cited Julie Lumberg of Louisa is an example of charity care contribution. She had a health condition that doctors were having a hard time diagnosing, and became virtually unable to see and couldn’t drive. She was unable to work, lost her health insurance, couldn’t afford to pay for COBRA coverage, and was still sick. Because of charity care, Julie was able to go to King’s Daughters Medical Center in Ashland for an MRI. She was diagnosed with a brain tumor and was able to have surgery without paying. Julie was up and driving within 14 days.

Kentucky hospitals, which treat an average of 55 percent Medicare patients, said they absorbed a $177.2 million shortfall from the federal program in 2012. Hospitals also reported a $300 shortfall in Medicaid, the federal-state program that covered approximately 830,000 Kentuckians in 2012. A shortfall is the difference in what the treatment cost and what the program paid. The report suggests that under federal health care reform, the Medicare shortfall will rise to $852 million in 2019.

Some hospital contributions to the community fall in the area of community health improvement services such as health education, treatment and/or prevention like health fairs, screening programs and immunization clinics. Kentucky hospitals said they contributed $58.5 million to these types of programs in 2012, up from $43.7 million in 2011.

Molly Rusk is someone who benefited from one such educational program, KHA said in its report. Molly is a 27-year-old woman who weighed too much to ride a mule through the Grand Canyon while on vacation. Upon returning to Kentucky, she attended a free seminar on medical weight loss options by Norton Healthcare in Louisville, enrolled in the program, and lost 60 pounds. She also no longer needs blood pressure or cholesterol medicine

Kentucky hospitals reported a big increase in research investment in 2012: $336.8 million, up from $270.8 million in 2011. They also contribute to education of health professionals. In 2012, they reported spending $141.7 million on health professions education, up from $127.4 million in 2011.

Pediatric care simulator

KHA cited as an example two pediatric care simulators, which are used throughout the state. They were purchased by Saint Joseph Hospital Foundation, part of KentuckyOne Health.  They have been instrumental in improving pediatric education for nurses who use them to practice assessment and intervention techniques, improving pediatric care and outcomes, KHA said.

The hospitals also contribute to their communities by subsidizing clinical services. The 24 neonatal intensive care units in Kentucky are examples of such programs that have received a portion of the reported $31.7 million spent on subsidies in 2012.

Hospitals said they contributed $12.3 million to support community and social service organization to promote health in 2012. As an example, KHA cited support for medical missions around the world by St. Elizabeth Healthcare in Northern Kentucky.

Hospitals said they contributed $3.8 million in 2012 for community building activities to protect or improve the health or safety of their communities. KHA said such programs often address the root cause of health problems, which are often not obviously health-related. One such program is the refurbished porches and ramps built for several needy families in Clay County that were provided by the Manchester Memorial Hospital.

A more obvious way that hospitals give back to their communities is through providing jobs, KHA noted. Kentucky hospitals were one of the largest employers in 2012. They paid approximately $4.1 billion in employee wages and salaries and more than $1 billion in employee benefits in 2012.

Hospitals also stimulate the economy through purchasing of supplies and services, which they said totaled more than $6.4 billion in 2012. They also said they generated an estimated $604 million in state and local taxes, through taxes paid directly or from their 82,488 full and part-time employees.

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