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.