Not-for-profit hospitals in Georgia provided nearly three times more uncompensated care on a per-bed basis than investor-owned hospitals in 1995, says a new report by the Georgia State Health Planning Agency.
The study found that the 121 private not-for-profit hospitals provided $369 million in uncompensated care after deducting reimbursements from state and local governments for indigent care, while the 37 investor-owned facilities provided $30 million.
Uncompensated care is the total of charity-care costs, which are the costs of care given with no expectation of payment, and bad-debt costs, which are the costs of care for which payment was expected but not received.
On a per-bed basis, those costs totaled $17,475 for Georgia not-for-profits, compared with $6,278 for for-profits.
John Parker, an attorney with Parker, Hudson, Rainer & Dobbs in Atlanta, which represents not-for-profit hospitals in Georgia, said, "This (study) shows that not-for-profits spend much more on charity care than for-profits."
However, Thomas Scully, president of the Federation of American Health Systems, which represents investor-owned hospitals and health systems, said he believes the data were skewed. "On credibility, this (study) gets a negative 10 on a scale of one to 1,000," Scully said.
Scully added that other nationwide reports have shown a much smaller gap in the amount of uncompensated care provided across ownership categories.
For example, in a report released last June, the Prospective Payment Assessment Commission, which advises Congress on Medicare Part A matters, said 4.5% of the total costs of not-for-profits went to uncompensated care compared with 4% for investor-owned hospitals.
In Georgia, the overall numbers appear to show a wider disparity, especially in some markets. In Albany, Ga., for example, 418-bed Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital competes with 172-bed Columbia Palmyra Medical Centers.
Phoebe Putney, a not-for-profit hospital, spent $7.3 million, or $17,464 per bed, on uncompensated care in 1995. Columbia Palmyra, which is owned by for-profit Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp., provided $1.9 million in uncompensated care, or $11,047 per bed.