Unpaid Medical Bills Rise As Congress Weighs Obamacare Fix

Hospitals are already seeing unpaid bills rise again just as Congress begins to consider again the future of cost-sharing reductions that help low income Americans pay their co-payments and deductibles under the Affordable Care Act, according to Forbes:

At HCA Holdings, the nation’s largest hospital chain, says its uncompensated care including bad debt and charity care are rising faster this year than last. HCA owns 177 hospitals and 119 surgery centers in 20 states.

“We’re seeing roughly a 4% to 5% growth in uninsured admissions,” HCA chief financial officer William Rutherford said during the company’s second-quarter earnings call. “That’s a little higher than we ran in the last half of 2016 and first quarter.”

Another large for-profit hospital operator, Tenet Healthcare said uncompensated care costs that dropped from 2015 to 2016 are now on the rise. “In our hospitals, volumes have been softer than anticipated and an increase in uninsured revenue has resulted in upward pressure on uncompensated care expense,” Tenet CFO Daniel Cancelmi said on the company’s second-quarter earnings call.

Unpaid hospital bills could continue to pile up even faster if President Trump and Congress don’t make a longer-term commitment to making the cost-sharing payments.

Without this cost-sharing, Obamacare customers won’t be shielded from their deductibles and co-payments and face cost increases of 20%-25% or more. Hospitals worry that patients will drop coverage — or at the very least be unable to pay their share of medical expenses.