Although the absolute amount of uncompensated hospital care delivered has risen tenfold since 1980, it's risen about 1% when calculated as a percentage of total expenses, the American Hospital Association announced.
The organization released its annual survey results, showing trends for both unpaid care (bad debt) and charity care considered together.
In 1980, uncompensated care costs total $3.9 billion, a figure that rose to $41.1 billion by 2011. During the same span, expressed as a percentage of total expenses, the costs rose from 5.1% and peaked at 6.4% in 1986, but then hovered between 5.5% and 6% since then with few exceptions.
Bad debt and charity care are added together and then multiplied by the hospital's cost-to-charge ratio, or the ratio of total expenses to gross patient and other operating revenue. AHA data on hospitals' uncompensated care are expressed in terms of costs because charge data can be misleading, particularly when comparisons are being made among types of hospitals, or hospitals with very different payer mixes, the organization said.