November 6, 2009

VUMC bears brunt of uncompensated care burden

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VUMC bears brunt of uncompensated care burden

Vanderbilt University Medical Center continues to lead the way in providing uncompensated care in Middle Tennessee, according to figures recently released by the Tennessee Department of Health in its most recent Joint Annual Report of Hospitals (JAR).

The 2008 JAR, which contains data that is self-reported by the state's hospitals, shows VUMC provided $228,135,792 worth of uncompensated care during fiscal year 2008.

Among Davidson County's nine largest hospitals VUMC's contribution represents 45.8 percent of all uncompensated care rendered to the uninsured or underinsured during the period. Uncompensated care represents a combined dollar total for the categories of charity care, care for the medically indigent and bad debt.

Previously, VUMC reported providing $225,064,399 in uncompensated care during fiscal year 2007; $184,438,216 during 2006 and $98,701,295 during 2005.

While the level of uncompensated care provided by VUMC is up from 2007, the figure could have been more significant given the backdrop of rising unemployment and personal bankruptcy. According to the 2008 JAR, Davidson County's nine major hospitals saw a 6 percent increase in uncompensated care over the 2007 period.

“Vanderbilt's continued commitment to care for those who need our services, regardless of their financial status, clearly demonstrates the University's ongoing mission to improve lives in our community,” said Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs and dean of the School of Medicine.

“The fact we have been able to continue to fulfill this mission during perhaps the most challenging economic climate in the University's history is a reflection of the hard work and dedication of our faculty and staff.”

The next nearest hospital in terms of uncompensated care provided in Davidson County is Metro Nashville General Hospital, which provided $66,921,241, or 13.4 percent, of this year's total.

Rounding out the top nine providers of uncompensated care are: the Tri-Star group's five for-profit hospitals — Centennial Medical Center, Southern Hills Medical Center, Skyline Madison, Skyline Medical Center and Summit Medical Center — which combined to provide $133,539,265 (26.8 percent); Baptist Hospital, which provided $35,407,930 (7.1 percent); and Saint Thomas Hospital, which provided $34,504,073 (6.9 percent).

“Although uncompensated care has been relatively stable as a percentage of our revenue for 2009, we are anticipating a higher level in 2010,” said Warren Beck, M.B.A., associate vice chancellor for Health Affairs and senior vice president of Finance.

“With the continued rise in unemployment and the expiration of COBRA benefits, there will be a larger number of people in our community who will be without insurance benefits and Vanderbilt will need to be there to provide essential health services.”