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Uncompensated care costs at lowest level in 26 years at roughly $36 billion

Since 2000, hospitals have provided more than $538 billion in uncompensated care to patients, AHA says.

Susan Morse, Managing Editor

Uncompensated care cost hospitals in 2015 bottomed out at the lowest level on record in 26  years, according to a recent study by the American Hospital Association.

In 2015, the most recent year data was available, uncompensated care nationwide cost hospitals $35.7 billion, representing 4.2 percent of total expenses, according to the AHA. This compares to 2014, when uncompensated care cost $42.8 billion and 5.3 percent of expenses.

[Also: Commonwealth Fund study finds parallels in uninsured rate decline, other economic gains and ACA implementation]

The year 2013 showed higher uncompensated care costs of $46.6 billion and 5.9 percent of expenses. The high mark for uncompensated care costs since 1990 was in 1999, was 6.2 percent of expenses.

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The AHA said that since 2000, hospitals have provided more than $538 billion in uncompensated care to patients. This includes financial assistance for which hospitals never expect to be reimbursed, care provided at a reduced cost for those in need, and  bad debt.

The AHA study gave no reason for the lower cost of uncompensated care figure in 2015, but on January 6 cited another study that said repeal of the Affordable Care Act could increase uncompensated care by $1.1 trillion over 10 years.

Partial repeal of the ACA could increase the number of uninsured by 29.8 million over ten years, the AHA said, citing a study by the Urban Institutes and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. This would increase uncompensated care by $1.1 trillion between 2019 and 2028, including $296.1 billion in hospital care, the AHA said.

Many provisions of the ACA went into effect in 2014.

Twitter: @SusanJMorse