It’s no secret that hospitals in the area are hurting. During the economic downturn, people are putting off elective surgery. The state has cut $73 million in funding for health care and human services. And with people losing their jobs and health care coverage, they’re showing up in emergency rooms for free care, which the hospitals have to absorb.
Even people with health insurance are costing the hospitals money, however. I was checking out a rumor that North Memorial had eliminated more nursing positions (they hadn’t) today, when Robert Prevost, a spokesman for the hospital, told me about the rapidly rising rate of delinquent accounts by people with health insurance.
In 2007, he said, the hospital had over $1 million in unpaid bills by people who had health insurance coverage. In 2008, that number has risen to $8 million.
No interest is added to medical bills, Prevost said, so people who have insurance but may be having financial difficulty, are putting medical bills last in line to be paid. And quite often they’re not paid at all.