When reviewing just about any hospital bill today, it’s difficult to imagine that hospitals were founded to provide care for the poor. “Hospitals in the United States emerged from institutions, notably almshouses, that provided care and custody for the ailing poor,” says America’s Essential Hospitals, an association of hospitals and health systems dedicated to providing high-quality care for all, including the vulnerable. “Rooted in this tradition of charity, the public hospital traces its ancestry to the development of cities and community efforts to shelter and care for the chronically ill, deprived, and disabled.” Continue reading
We’ve all written a lot about the “Medicaid gap” – the low-income people who can’t get coverage under the Affordable Care Act because their states have opted out of Medicaid expansion. The Kaiser Family Foundation has estimated that 4 million people fall in this gap.
According to Moody’s Investors Service, nonprofit hospitals in expansion states have seen their bad debt from unpaid bills drop an average of 13 percent as they treated more patients who have coverage. In non-expansion states, bad debt rose.
Reuters’ Robin Respaut recently looked at how the Medicaid gap has affected two iconic urban safety net hospitals who treat a lot of low income people – Cook County in Chicago and Grady Memorial in Atlanta. Continue reading
In January 2012, EMTs took Ignacio Alaniz by helicopter to Memorial Hermann Hospital, one of the largest nonprofit medical centers in Texas. Alaniz had been working underneath his Buick Century, trying to get it started. When it rolled over him, he suffered a punctured lung, nine fractured ribs and a broken arm.
“By the time the helicopter landed, he was already $12,196.37 in debt,” wrote Dianna Wray, a staff writer for the Houston Press. Her article about Alaniz, “Getting Stuck: Uninsured Patients Slammed with Lawsuits by Not-for-Profit Hospital,” was recognized as one of the best examples of health journalism in the business (small) category in AHCJ’s Awards for Excellence in Health Care Journalism. In a new “How I did it” article, Wray explains how her reporting led her to many more cases of patients being sued for medical debt and some of the reaction the story generated. Continue reading
AHCJ has just released a new trove of information from GuideStar on the finances of nonprofit U.S. hospitals. This information – from tax years 2009 and 2010 – contains carefully selected highlights from the hospital’s IRS 990 forms, which nonprofits must file to maintain their mostly tax-free status.
Reporters can use this AHCJ spreadsheet to get:
- detailed salary info on top executives
- the institution’s charity care and community benefit numbers
- a hospital’s lobbying expenses
- and the business relationships of board members, among other things.
This data will be discussed at the Health Journalism 2013 session, “Diving into documents: Using 990s and more to cover hospital finances,” on Sunday at 10:40 am. Howard Rivenson, senior lecturer on health management, Harvard School of Public Health, will join me to help demystify hospital finances.
Health News Florida, a nonprofit health news website founded by journalist and AHCJ member Carol Gentry, has been acquired by WUSF Public Media, which operates public radio and television stations affiliated with the University of South Florida in Tampa.
According to a post on The Miami Herald‘s website, the Health News Florida website will continue while NPR creates a new site and integrates existing content.
Gentry, reporters Sarah Pusateri, Sammy Mack and editorial assistant Lottie Watts will work continue to provide content for the site and the radio station.
Gentry, who has covered health finance and policy for the St. Petersburg Times, The Tampa Tribune and The Wall Street Journal, founded Health News Florida in 2006. In a press release, she says the partnership with WUSF is a good fit. “Our values match up to those of public broadcasting.”
Amid the controversy over the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation’s changes in funding for Planned Parenthood, Reuters’ reporters Sharon Begley and Janet Roberts took a look at the organization’s financial statements.
Their analysis shows that the charity has “cut by nearly half the proportion of fund-raising dollars it spends on grants to scientists working to understand the causes and develop effective new treatments for the disease.”
In 2008, it spent 29 percent of its donations on research awards. In 2011, that number was down to 15 percent.
Reuters reports that, according to the 2011 financial statement, “43 percent of donations were spent on education, 18 percent on fund-raising and administration, 15 percent on research awards and grants, 12 percent on screening and 5 percent on treatment.”
Meanwhile, AHCJ member and independent journalist Christie Aschwanden writes that the real scandal lies with the organization’s “science denialism.” She says it has perpetuated the “notion that breast cancer is a uniformly progressive disease that starts small and only grows and spreads if you don’t stop it in time” – breast cancer’s false narrative.
Aschwanden points out that Komen’s insistence that women be “screened now” and that early detection saves lives, as proclaimed in its ads, “flies in the face of basic cancer biology” as well as places blame on people who have metastatic breast cancer. The piece is well worth a read, especially to find out what Komen’s own chief scientific adviser says about the organization’s message.
And, for a re-cap of the Komen saga, ProPublica has put together a handy timeline of Komen’s “Shifting Story on Planned Parenthood.”