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Hospitals see drop in paying patients

New York Times, November 7, 2008

In another sign of the economy's toll on the nation's healthcare system, some hospitals say they are seeing fewer paying patients, despite greater numbers of people showing up at emergency rooms unable to pay their bills. Some patients with insurance seem to be deferring lucrative treatments like knee replacements, hernia repairs, and weight-loss surgeries. The loss of money-making procedures comes at a difficult time for hospitals because these treatments tend to subsidize the charity care and unpaid medical bills that are increasing as a result of the slow economy.