From the Chicago Tribune:
Indigent and under-insured patients are turning to Cook County’s Stroger Hospital after not getting fully treated at non-profit hospitals, swamping the cash-strapped public facility while fueling the county’s sky-high sales tax, a Tribune investigation found.
Some of these patients arrive at Stroger’s emergency room bearing discharge slips, prescriptions, even Yahoo and Google maps from non-profit hospitals, according to documents obtained by the Tribune.
“Go to Cook County Hospitals immediately,” says a discharge slip for a man with a broken jaw.
“Go to Cook County ER to be evaluated for admission,” reads a discharge slip for a man with a tumor.
Here’s the Wall Street Journal Health Blog‘s take on the issue:
Just because a hospital is a non-profit, that doesn’t mean it has to provide charity care to everyone who seeks it. Beyond the requirement, shared by all hospitals, to treat patients who are having medical emergencies, non-profits can send away some of those who can’t pay. That often leaves publicly financed “safety-net” hospitals holding the bag.
Non-profit hospitals do provide more charity care than for-profit hospitals — in the Chicago area, about 2% of their total revenue, versus 1% at for-profit hospitals, according to an analysis cited by the Trib.
But, as the WSJ reported last year, as some nonprofits have moved to begun to operate more like for-profit businesses, some lawmakers have questioned whether they’re doing enough to deserve their tax-exempt status. A recent IRS study found that a small minority of nonprofit hospitals provide the bulk of uncompensated care for the poor.
The Chicago nonprofits in the Trib story say they do offer charity care to poor patients. And an official at the Illinois Hospital Association said efforts to move non-emergency patients out of emergency rooms are designed to provide more efficient care, not to dump patients.