Wyoming hospitals provided at least $100 million in 2012 and 2013 in medical treatment to patients who could not afford to pay, according to new data presented Monday to lawmakers.
In 2013, the state’s 27 hospitals that accept Medicare and Medicaid had $100 million in uncompensated care. In 2012, it was $116 million, according to a report by the Wyoming Legislative Service Office, the nonpartisan staff for lawmakers.
Those numbers are likely higher, as Campbell County Memorial Hospital data was not available. The data is the most recent and was obtained from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said Don Richards, budget and fiscal section manager of the Legislative Service Office.
The staff presented the 126-page report to the Joint Labor, Health and Social Services Interim Committee, which met at Casper College.
The committee is studying problems with the health care system. Members will decide Tuesday whether to draft any legislation for the 2016 season in response to the report.
Earlier this year, the Legislature declined to accept federal money to expand Medicaid to 17,600 low-income Wyomingites. Supporters said that money would have helped with the problem of uncompensated care, since people who would benefit by expansion are unable to pay for hospital bills.
Eric Boley, president of the Wyoming Hospital Association, told lawmakers money is tight for many hospitals since there is so much uncompensated care. Some hospitals have little cash reserves because of the issue.
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Hospitals make ends meet by passing costs down to the people who have insurance, Boley said.
“The way hospitals stay in business is by those who do pay,” he said.
In 2013, uncompensated care averaged 8.1 percent of hospital operating budgets in Wyoming. The lowest was Sheridan County Memorial Hospital, 1.7 percent, and the highest was Niobrara Life and Health, in Lusk, at 42.2 percent.
Wyoming’s average is higher than the national average of 6.7 percent, the report said.
Almost all of the state’s hospitals are required by state or federal law to provide free care to the poor, said Ian Shaw of the Legislative Service Office.
State law requires county memorial hospitals provide free care to county residents without means, he said.
“All entities that take Medicare payments and all entities that file for 501(c)(3) status are also obligated to provide charity care,” he said.