MinnPost.com‘s Dr. Kay Schwebke reported that uncompensated care — both charity care and bad debt taken on by hospitals to fulfill moral and legal obligations — has climbed at “unprecedented rates” in Minnesota as folks lose insurance through layoffs or employer cutbacks or otherwise can’t afford out-of-pocket expenses and high deductibles.
In Minnesota, uncompensated care made up about 2.1 percent ($247.4 million) of hospital operating expenses in 2007, up from 1.6 percent ($128.7 million) in 2003, and there are indications that those numbers are rising.
Driven in large part by uncompensated care, “net hospital income fell from a positive 4.8 percent in third quarter 2007 to a negative 2.5 percent in third quarter 2008,” Schwebke reported.
Schwebke also looked at what these decreases meant in terms of layoffs, cutbacks and the availability of charity care at the state’s largest hospitals.
Associated Press Business Writer Linda Johnson discovered that diabetics, and others in need of medical attention, were putting their health at risk by cutting back on insulin, medicine and monitoring as they felt the economic pinch of the global recession.
Sales of top-selling drugs and other products used to treat and monitor the disease have dropped since the economic crisis accelerated last fall, the AP analysis found. There are even signs that some patients are choosing less-expensive insulin injections over pricier pills to save money.
People with other health problems also are cutting back on care amid the recession, but diabetics who don’t closely monitor and control the chronic disease risk particularly dire complications: amputations, vision loss, stroke — even death.
Johnson found that a broad spectrum of patients were attempting to cut corners and save money. She cited a variety of anecdotal examples and wider economic metrics, all of which support her main point: Diabetics are spending less, and it’s a threat to their health.
Dr. Steven Edelman, a University of California, San Diego endocrinologist who runs a free clinic staffed by medical students, has seen a 30 percent surge the past six months in patients seeking free diabetes medicines and supplies, which the clinic has to ration. Many had been solidly middle class, but the recession took their jobs, insurance and even some homes.