Hospitals in Minnesota saw a 6% drop in uncompensated care in 2014, a trend state health officials attribute to more people having health insurance through the online insurance marketplace, MNsure.
The Minnesota Department of Health looked at uncompensated care between 2013 and 2014, the first year in which the state implemented many of the key coverage provisions of the federal Affordable Care Act, including the creation of MNsure.
Hospitals experienced a 22.4% ($34.6 million) decline in charity care, which is only the second time since 2001 that the number fell in the state, the Minnesota Department of Health said in a statement Tuesday.
"Charity care fell for patients with insurance and patients without insurance. However, there was a greater decline in charity care for the uninsured (down 24.6%) compared to insured patients (down 17.8%),” according to the statement.
Stefan Gildemeister, director of the Minnesota Department of Health's Economics Program, said the numbers seem to indicate that hospitals benefited from a drop in charity care needs as tens of thousands of Minnesotans accessed health insurance as a result of MNsure and the Affordable Care Act. But while the overall decline in uncompensated care was viewed as good news, it masked an increase in bad debt costs, which have been largely on the rise. In 2014, Minnesota hospitals saw bad debt increase 9.3% ($14.9 million) to $174.2 million, officials said.
"The increase in bad debt has occurred as health care costs continue to rise and employers and insurers shift more of the costs to patients through higher deductibles and copays," the department said.