(LOUISVILLE, Ky – September 29, 2016) Kentucky hospitals provided 76.9 percent less charity care and other care to uninsured Kentuckians last year than they did in 2012, according to a report released by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. The data suggests that hospitals in the Commonwealth are receiving health insurance payments for a larger percentage of the care they deliver to lower-income patients who previously were uninsured.

“Thousands more Kentuckians had insurance in 2015 than in 2012, and that led to a huge drop in the value of the charity care hospitals provided,” said Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. “Charity care and uncollected bills comprise a significant portion of uncom­pen­sated care provided by Kentucky hospitals, and hospitals in other states that, like Kentucky, have expanded Medicaid also have seen large decreases in the charity care.”

The value of care Kentucky hospitals gave to uninsured patients responsible for their own bills (self-pay patients) but who typically don't fully pay them, or who qualified for charity care, was nearly $2.4 billion in 2012. The value rose to nearly $2.6 billion in 2013, before the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was implemented; it then dropped to $942 million in 2014, and to $552 million in 2015.

The report, the latest from an ongoing study of the impact of the ACA in Kentucky commissioned by the Foundation, analyzes data from several sources regarding health coverage, access to care, cost of care, quality of care and health outcomes. It also includes the results of a spring 2016 Kentucky Health Reform Survey of non-elderly Kentucky adults.

The report also found that potentially avoidable hospital admissions declined from 2012 to 2014 for two chronic conditions, hypertension and asthma, but rose for diabetes. In addition, the report said:

  • Nearly a quarter of Kentuckians sought care for themselves in an emergency room in 2014, about the same as in 2012. This rate remained significantly higher than the U.S. average of 18.2 percent, but was similar to nearby states of Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia and Tennessee.
  • About 29 percent of Kentuckians who used the emergency room (ER) said they chose the ER because of a medical emergency; another 28.7 percent said other facilities weren’t open when they needed care.
  • Almost half (48 percent) of Kentuckians enrolled in public health insurance sought care in an ER for themselves or for a family member in the past year, while 19 percent of those enrolled in individual-market private plans reported using the ER.

The 2016 Semi-Annual Report of the Study of the Impact of the ACA Implementation in Kentucky is one of a series of reports issued as part of an ongoing study commissioned by the Foundation and conducted by the State Health Access Data Assistance Center (SHADAC) at the University of Minnesota. The complete report is available here.