The Affordable Care Act has provided a much-needed boost to public providers such as the Cook County Health and Hospitals System, the two-hospital public system that serves Chicago and its surrounding communities.
Now that the system has more insured patients, its bad debt and charity obligations fell 46% to $191.4 million during the first year in which the ACA's individual insurance mandate was in effect. The system posted a surplus of $14.1 million in the fiscal year ended Nov. 30, 2014, according to audited results, up significantly from a $93.1 million deficit the year before.
The push to insure Americans also brought new enrollees to CountyCare, Cook County's new Medicaid managed-care program. In 2014, CCHHS received $656 million in reimbursements for CountyCare, up from $117.5 million the previous year.
More money from CountyCare helped boost system revenue, which totaled $1.3 billion in 2014, up 78% from $709.5 million the previous year.
The system still suffered an operating loss of $213.7 million because of increased costs from serving more patients, but that loss was nearly half of its $394.4 million operating loss the year before.
“(Public hospitals) have a greater amount of patients arriving with insurance cards, and that has helped pay bills that were previously unpaid or paid by other public entities,” said Peter Butler, associate professor and chairman in the department of health systems management at Rush University in Chicago.