Philadelphia Inquirer, August 13, 2010

It's no surprise that the struggling economy has made it harder for hospitals to collect money from patients who have lost their jobs - and their health insurance. But a local hospital group says the fastest-growing part of what hospitals call "bad debt" - basically, uncollectible bills - is money owed by patients who have insurance. As employers dump costs onto workers, so now are workers dumping costs onto hospitals. Because of rising deductibles and cost-sharing rules, patients are increasingly faced with bills that would have been unusual for someone with insurance a few years ago. Growing numbers of them can't pay, or won't. Total bad debt grew 12%, from $490 million in fiscal 2007 to nearly $550 million in fiscal 2008, at 36 area hospitals that responded to a 2009 survey by the Delaware Valley Healthcare Council of HAP. But bad debt from insured patients grew twice as fast: 28%, from $76 million to $97 million. In a different survey that drew responses from 19 hospitals, the percentage of bad debt attributable to patients with insurance rose from 20% in 2007 to 30% last year.



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