HealthLeaders-InterStudy, a leading provider of managed care market intelligence, reports that safety-net hospitals in Atlanta and Cleveland are among safety-net providers attempting to reduce cost burdens by charging uninsured residents outside of certain counties for non-emergency services. Rising numbers of uninsured patients and increasing medical costs are placing growing financial pressure on safety-net facilities that provide care to the uninsured and underinsured.
According to the recent Atlanta Market Overview, Grady Health System began charging fees for non-emergency visits for residents living outside of Fulton and DeKalb counties -- counties that provide financial support for the hospital. Patients from surrounding counties must pay fees for non-emergency visits on a sliding scale based on income.
In Cleveland, Cuyahoga County-owned MetroHealth Medical Center implemented a $150 charge for uninsured patients residing outside of the county. According to the Cleveland Market Overview, MetroHealth has also announced it will charge point-of-service fees to uninsured patients in an effort to divert patients from unnecessary emergency room visits into its primary-care physician offices.
"Implementing fees for non-emergency and non-resident hospital visits will likely drive uninsured patients to free clinics," said Deborah White, market analyst with HealthLeaders-InterStudy. "This has been the case in Ohio, where Lorain County residents seeking care from MetroHealth Medical Center were steered toward the county's four free clinics. With the rising tide of uninsured patients, these organizations are facing increasing financial strain themselves."
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