Isle hospitals cash in on $14.4M check
Hawaii hospitals, which dug into their pockets to cover $143 million last year in unpaid charity care and bad debt, have received $14,432,000 to help cushion their losses.
A check for that amount in federal funding was presented to the state and private hospitals yesterday by Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona and state Human Services Director Lillian Koller.
"The whole thrust of this is to help us ease our financial burden in treating uninsured patients because they are basically uncompensated care," said Richard Meiers, president and chief executive officer of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii, where the check was presented.
Costs for charity care and bad debt rose about $10 million from 2005 to 2006, according to an accounting recently issued by Ernst & Young and the Hawaii Health Information Corp.
Unfunded costs for charity care and bad debt totaled $500.8 million from 2002 to 2006, the study reported.
Overall, it said, hospital costs last year exceeded patient revenues by $150 million.
Meiers said the $14.4 million in federal dollars provided by the state administration "certainly softens the blow a little bit" for hospital losses on charity care and bad debt, which increase every year.
"It can make the difference between a facility going under and staying open," he said.
This is the third year the hospitals have received federal funds to help defray costs for uninsured patients, but one award was for two years, Meiers said.
"For years, we never got any of these kinds of federal dollars from administrations," he said. No federal money for charity health care was provided between 1994 and 2005. In 2005 and 2006, the Department of Human Services distributed more than $40.5 million to the hospitals.
Meiers credited Gov. Linda Lingle's administration and especially Koller for efforts in fighting to bring in additional dollars.
Koller said the administration "recognizes the critical role of Hawaii's public and private hospitals in maintaining a safety net for uninsured patients."
"These federal funds will help ensure that our hospitals continue to provide quality care for all the people of Hawaii, including the neediest among us," she said.
Of the $14,432,000, $7.5 million is divided among 16 private hospitals for uninsured patient care in the 2007 and 2008 fiscal years. The balance, $6,932,000, goes to the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation for public hospitals.
The major hospital allocations include the Queen's Medical Center, $2,601,750; Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children, $1,092,000; Straub Clinic & Hospital, $610,500; Hawaii Medical Center-East, $538,500; Hawaii Medical Center-West, $381,750; Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, $454,500; and Kapiolani Medical Center at Pali Momi, $355,500.