Fla. system forces ventilator patients to stay in hospitals, incur multimillion-dollar bills

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates social media efforts of AHCJ and assists with the editing and production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

Richard Martin of the St. Petersburg Times reports that, because Florida has few nursing homes that can care for patients on ventilators, some patients are forced to stay in hospitals and rack up enormous bills.

ventilator

Photo by quinn.anya via Flickr

The patients in question have been stabilized to the point where they no longer need hospital care, though they rely on ventilators, but the hospitals can’t discharge them without finding a facility that can take patients on a ventilator.

Martin reports that fewer than two dozen nursing homes, of about 700 in Florida, care for ventilator patients. Other states pay nursing homes more to care for ventilator patients.

So, in a state where uninsured people go without even basic care, millions of dollars go to ventilator care for people who don’t need to be in hospitals — and who might not even want to be there.

Martin says no one knows how many patients need long-term ventilator care, but one hospital administrator estimates his hospital has three or four patients who fall in this category. According to the Florida Hospital Association, there are about 300 hospitals in the state. The article cites cases in which ventilator patients racked up bills of $9.2 million and $1.7 million.

Hospitals often have no way to collect such bills, and have to write them off as charity care, Martin reports.

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