The Philadelphia Inquirer‘s Michael Vitez has been given free reign for several months now to explore and report on Abington Memorial Hospital as an embedded reporter.
The result has been a mix of deep, wonderfully chosen anecdotes accompanied by quotes and hospital introspection that go far beyond what you often see in “look what went wrong at the local hospital!” stories.
His latest installment explores the effect of patient “dumping” on hospitals through the story of an 83-year-old illegal immigrant from Korea whose family dropped her off at Abington out of desperation and had no intention of picking her up on her discharge date. Vitez’ report is distinguished by his honest, thoughtful approach to both patient and caregiver.
In previous dispatches, he has chronicled how Abington is working to prevent with hospital-acquired infections and, as Covering Health has covered previously, palliative care.
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.