Uncompensated Care Burden May Mean Financial Vulnerability For Rural Hospitals In States That Did Not Expand Medicaid
Author: Kristin L. Reiter, Marissa Noles, George H. Pink
The implementation of the Affordable Care Act has led to a large decrease in the number of uninsured people. Yet uncompensated care will still occur, particularly in states where eligibility for Medicaid is not expanded. We compared rural hospitals in Medicaid expansion and nonexpansion states in terms of the amount of uncompensated care they provided and their profitability and market characteristics in 2013. We found that rural hospitals in expansion states provided more dollars of uncompensated care than those in nonexpansion states and that the difference was at least partly driven by greater uncompensated costs associated with public programs such as Medicaid. We found higher dollar values of unrecoverable debt and charity care among non–critical access rural hospitals in nonexpansion states than among those in expansion states. Compared to hospitals in expansion states, those in nonexpansion states provided greater amounts of uncompensated care as a percentage of revenues and appeared to be more financially vulnerable; thus, these hospitals may be more likely to experience financial pressure or losses. Policy makers need to formulate strategies for maintaining access to care for rural populations residing in nonexpansion states.