Study: State’s Uninsured Pay More Hospital Fees Than Government Payers
California hospitals collect a higher percentage of their listed charges from uninsured patients than from government payers such as Medicare, according to a study published Tuesday in Health Affairs, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
For the study, researchers from RAND and USC analyzed data hospitals submitted to the state from 2001 to 2005.
The study found that from 2001 to 2002, hospitals collected 18% more of their charges from uninsured patients than from Medicare beneficiaries. The percentage rose to 20% from 2004 to 2005.
Researchers concluded that uninsured patients' payments to hospitals increased from 2001 to 2005 because the uninsured paid the same or more than Medicare beneficiaries during that period, a time in which Medicare increased payments to hospitals by 13%.
Glenn Melnick, a USC professor and RAND economist, said, "Hospitals have started to adjust prices to the uninsured somewhat, but not substantially," adding, "The study shows they continue to raise prices to the uninsured during this period."
However, hospital officials "criticized the study for failing to reflect recent changes the industry has implemented to provide some relief for the uninsured," according to the Chronicle.
Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, argued that because the study relied on averages, it does not reflect that some individuals paid large bills while others do not pay at all. He added that some uninsured patients pay two to four times the Medicare rates.
The study was funded by the USC Center for Health Financing, Policy and Management and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (Colliver, San Francisco Chronicle, 2/5).
An abstract of the study is available online.