Theres more than one way to measure the nations slipping health insurance coverage. Homestead (Fla.) Hospital has seen the percentage of patients who pay for their own care inch upward year after year.
In 2006, exactly one-quarter of the 116-bed hospitals patients lacked insurance, up from 24% in 2005 and 23% the year before that, unaudited financial records show.
Now, with three months to go before closing the books on 2007, Homestead has reported 26% of its patients do not have public or private insurance.
William Duquette, chief executive officer of the Baptist Health South Florida-owned hospital, said charity care costs from Homesteads needy patients have contributed to its chronic losses.
Located roughly 30 miles southwest of downtown Miami, Homestead is one of five Baptist Health South Florida hospitals. The Coral Gables, Fla.-based systems fiscal year ends on Sept. 30. For the first nine months of 2007, Homestead lost $16.1 million off operating revenue of $119.4 million, compared with $13.1 million off operating revenue of $136.2 million in 2006. And for the first nine months of 2007, Homestead wrote off charges worth $29 million for charity care, a 58% increase from the same period a year earlier. We anticipated a slight increase, he said. We really frankly didnt budget for that. The hospital wrote off another $49 million in charges for Medicaid while its bad debt expenses totaled $45.5 million. Charges are based on the sticker price for care, and do not take into account any discounts.
Duquette said that he does not expect relief anytime soon. If anything, it might get worse, he said.
To alleviate demand for care among the uninsured, Duquette said the hospital subsidizes care for low-income patients at nearby clinics. Meanwhile, he said the hospital may see some financial relief attributable to the surrounding communitys fast-growing population. Homesteads executives are also weighing how to boost revenue with new niche services that will attract patients from outside its market, he said. And Homestead moved into a newly constructed
$135 million hospital with all private rooms earlier this year.
Uninsured patients who cannot afford care or simply do not pay are putting a strain on Homesteads not-for-profit parent company as well, according to Moodys Investors Service.