Charlotte Observer Series on Nonprofit Hospitals

Prognosis: Profits, Series homepage (Five-part series), Charlotte Observer:

  • Nonprofit hospitals thrive on profits, By Ames Alexander, Karen Garloch and Joseph Neff, April 21, 2012, Charlotte Observer: “Nonprofit hospitals in the Charlotte region are respected community institutions. They save lives, heal the sick and provide good jobs. At the same time, most of them are stockpiling a fortune. Their profits have risen along with their prices. Top executives are paid millions as their hospitals expand, buy expensive technology and build aggressively. And they benefit each year from a perk worth millions: They pay no income, property or sales taxes. These institutions were created with charitable missions. But many don’t act like nonprofits anymore. In their quest for growth and financial strength, they have contributed to the rising cost of health care, leaving thousands of patients with bills they struggle to pay…”
  • Most N.C. hospitals are slim on charity care, By Ames Alexander, Joseph Neff and Karen Garloch, April 22, 2012, Charlotte Observer: “Rachael Shehan has no health insurance and virtually no income. But when serious respiratory problems strike, her hospital has never provided financial help, she said. Instead, the 39-year-old Lenoir resident says, Caldwell Memorial Hospital has sent bill collectors who have hounded her for payment and ruined her credit. Now, she sometimes bursts into tears when medical problems arise. ‘I know the hospital isn’t going to help me with my bills,’says Shehan, who relies on food stamps and the help of friends. Nonprofit hospitals such as Caldwell Memorial are exempt from property, sales and income taxes. In return, they are expected to give back to their communities, largely by providing care to those who can’t afford it. Like Caldwell, most North Carolina hospitals are devoting a fraction of their expenses to help the poor and uninsured, an investigation by the Charlotte Observer and The News & Observer of Raleigh found. In 2010, most of the state’s hospitals spent less than 3 percent of their budgets on charity care – the practice of forgiving all or part of a patient’s bill…”

Medicaid Expansion – Colorado

Colorado extends Medicaid to some adults without kids, By Eric Whitney, April 26, 2012, Minnesota Public Radio: “Dale Miller spends his days on the streets of downtown Denver selling a newspaper called The Homeless Voice. He’s been having some health problems, but he can’t afford to see a doctor on the $10 to $15 a day he makes selling papers. A local charity clinic called the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless recently helped him get a CT scan at no cost to him. Miller fully understands, though, that someone has to pay for his care. ‘The state’s paying for that, ya dig? I mean, it’s not free,’ says Miller. ‘I’ve got my itemized bill in my backpack for my last Thursday’s visit, and it was like $450 for the doctor, $1,100 for the lab work, and the state’s paying for that.’ The state’s actually only paying for a small part of those bills. Colorado has an indigent care program that helps charity clinics and hospitals cover bills like Miller’s. But it only pays about 10 cents on the dollar. That’s starting to change as Colorado is adding people to its rolls for Medicaid, the state and federal health program for the poor and disabled…”

Wisconsin Poverty Report

UW report says safety net kept state families from poverty, By Todd Finkelmeyer, April 27, 2012, Capital Times: “Wisconsin is doing a good job of providing a safety net for the state’s most vulnerable people, according to the fourth annual Wisconsin Poverty Report released this week. The study, conducted by UW-Madison’s Institute for Research on Poverty, is designed to measure poverty rates more accurately than the official federal numbers that are compiled using only pretax cash income figures. In addition to these cash resources, the institute’s Wisconsin Poverty Measure also takes into account the effects of government safety net initiatives such as tax credits (including the state and federal earned income tax credit), food stamps, BadgerCare and subsidized child care. In 2010, the most recent year for which figures are available, Wisconsin’s official overall poverty rate as measured at the federal level was at 13 percent, while the Institute for Research on Poverty (IRP) pinned that figure at 10.3 percent. And the gap is even wider when looking at children — with official numbers indicating an 18.6 percent child poverty rate in the state compared to a Wisconsin Poverty Measure of 10.8 percent…”

Unemployment Rate – Spain

Spain’s economic crisis deepens as unemployment hits 24.4%, By Pan Pylas (AP), April 27, 2012, USA Today: “The hole in Spain’s economy is getting deeper. The government reported Friday that unemployment rose to 24.4% in the first quarter – compared with 22.9% in the fourth quarter – and that more than half of Spaniards under 25 are now without jobs. ┬áThe bleak employment came one day after ratings agency Standard & Poor’s downgraded the country’s debt. The Spanish economy is in recession for the second time in three years as the damage from a housing bust persists. Foreclosures are rising, Spain’s banks are in worse financial shape and the government’s deficit is hitting worrisome levels. The first-quarter employment data showed that 365,900 people lost their jobs, bringing the number of unemployed Spaniards to 5.6 million. The unemployment rate for people under 25 climbed to 52%, up from 48.5% in the previous quarter…”