Community Investment Report

February 10, 2017
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Author: Mary Becker, Senior Vice President of Strategic Partnerships and Communications

What’s in a number? In health care, we often use large numbers to explain the cost of equipment, revenues and expenses, cuts to reimbursement, and — for the purpose of this post — uncompensated care and community benefit. But, what do those large numbers really mean?

For the last few years, MHA has attempted to illustrate how a large amount of uncompensated care could equate to common medical experiences. This year’s community investment report states, “Put into perspective, the $641 million in charity care provided by Missouri hospitals annually is equivalent to 656,708 free emergency department visits every year, or 24,291 free physician office visits every day, or 5.1 million free mammograms every year.”

Explaining a large number in this way puts it into terms that allows people to better understand and relate.

As new discussions about the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act begin to heat up, it’s also important to help put the large numbers of Missouri’s uninsured in perspective. Between 2014 and 2015, Missouri hospitals’ provision of charity care decreased by $100 million. This corresponds with the nearly 300,000 Missourians who obtained insurance through the health care marketplace — good news to say the least.

But, nearly 600,000 of our citizens remain uninsured. That’s a big number, and many of them receive care in hospital emergency departments because they have no other access to medical services. Again, in an effort to provide perspective, the report states, “On average, an uninsured Missourian seeks care in a hospital emergency department every minute of every day.” Now, the number and plight of the uninsured is in context.

Numbers are just numbers. We quantify the significant financial contributions hospitals provide to their communities to demonstrate that we are being transparent, and to share hospitals’ important work to build healthy, resilient communities. Visit FocusOnHospitals.com to compare hospital prices, quality and community investment.