Charity care at Missouri hospitals on the rise, new report finds

Jun 4, 2012

Missouri hospitals are providing more charity care, according to a new analysis from the Missouri Foundation for Health. But, community health centers have also been easing the strain.

Charity care is basically the care hospitals provide without getting paid for it. A study of several dozen hospitals in the St. Louis region, along with some rural counties, found charity care went up 25 percent a year, between the years 2004 and 2008. The increase coincided with a reduction in the state’s Medicaid program and a rise in the state’s uninsured population.

Ryan Barker is with the Missouri Foundation for health and oversaw the new report. He says the report found that this increase in hospital charity care could have been much worse if it weren’t for community health centers: "[In St. Louis,] the safety net was able to pick up some of those patients that lost their Medicaid coverage, provide primary care and keep them out of the hospitals, which sort of tampered down the increase in uninsured accessing the emergency room."

Barker says on the whole, hospitals in rural areas felt greater pressures because there were fewer health centers.