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Minnesota nonprofit hospitals dole out $4.3 billion in community benefits in 2014

Of that, $402 million were provided to services responding to specific community health needs like screenings, education and health fairs.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

In its annual Community Benefit Report, the Minnesota Hospital Association announced that the state's nonprofit hospitals and health systems chipped in more than $4.3 billion in programs and services in 2014 to benefit community health. That's an uptick of 4.6 percent compared to the previous year.

Of that $4.3 billion, $402 million were provided to services responding to specific community health needs -- screenings, education, health fairs, immunization clinics and outreach in a number of different areas, such as weight loss and diabetes prevention.

"We know that much of what influences our health happens outside of the doctor's office -- in our schools, workplaces and neighborhoods," said Lawrence Massa, president and CEO of the MHA. "Just as our care teams devote themselves to meeting the needs of patients in the hospital, our hospitals and health systems are driven to address their own community's needs."

[Also: Colorado hospitals provided more than $2 billion in community benefits in 2014]

Among the beneficiaries are HealthEast community paramedics, who helped more than 100 mental health patients readjust to their home environment, manage medications and get follow-up care after being discharged from St. Joseph's Hospital's inpatient mental health unit.

Hennepin County Medical Center also received cash. Its Mother-Baby Program was the first of its kind in Minnesota, and fourth in the nation, to use a structured day hospital model to support mothers with perinatal psychiatric disorders as they adjust to having a new baby.

As well as contributing to community health initiatives, Minnesota hospitals reported providing $589 million in uncompensated care, an increase of 2.9 percent compared to 2013. This uncompensated care includes "charity care" for patients from whom there is no expectation of payment, and "bad debt," the result of patients who could not or did not pay their share of the hospital bill.

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The overall cost of charity care decreased in 2014 as more Minnesotans secured health insurance, but amount of bad debt increased, making uncompensated care a continuing concern for hospitals. The main driver of increasing bad debt, said the report, is high-deductible health plan amounts owed by patients that go unpaid.

Hospitals also gifted $419 million in education and workforce development, including training for doctors and nurses; $235 million in research to support the development of better medical treatments and to find cures for diseases; and $2.3 billion in government underfunding as a result of treating Medicare and Medicaid patients, and receiving government reimbursements that are less than the actual cost of providing the care. That's an increase of 10.9 percent over 2013.

The 2015 Community Benefit Report reflects 2014 financial information, the most recent data available, self-reported by Minnesota's hospitals and healthcare systems and supplemented with data reported to the Minnesota Department of Health. The annual report comprises an analysis of categories of community contribution activities on a statewide and regional basis.

Twitter: @JELagasse