The Medicaid expansion underway across half the country holds the promise of fewer unpaid medical bills, bringing financial relief to hospitals as well as poor households. Now, early reports from providers suggest that might be the case.
In states that chose to expand Medicaid as of January, more patients have entered the hospital with Medicaid and fewer lack health insurance, according to several health systems that have disclosed financial figures through the end of March. The decline in uninsured patients has meant hospitals are writing off lower sums as charity care and bad debt.
"We have seen a significant drop off in the patients that are coming to our facilities that don't have insurance," said Andy McCoy, vice president of revenue management for Minneapolis-based Fairview Health Services.
The data suggest that rise in Medicaid patients doesn't reflect new patients but rather ones who previously sought care at Fairview without insurance coverage. Demand for hospital and emergency room services, that is, has not increased with an influx of Medicaid patients at the system's six Minnesota hospitals. Fairview also saw charges for Medicaid patients increase during the first three months of the year on par with a drop in charges for the uninsured, he said.