Iowa hospitals provided more than $1 billion in uncompensated care to patients last year, an all-time high that officials say is due in part to "huge losses" from insufficient Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements.


According to results of an annual statewide survey by the Iowa Hospital Association,  the 118 hospitals in the state provided $641 million in charity care in 2012 and also wrote off $405 million in bad debt expenses. That $1.05 billion in uncompensated care represents a 10.1 percent increase over 2011.


Uncompensated care has increased relative to hospital revenue. In 2007 the level of uncompensated care was 9.9 percent of net patient revenues in Iowa; the $1.05 billion figure in 2012 is equivalent to 14 percent of the net revenue hospitals took in last year.   


"We continue to see growth in (uncompensated care)," said Scott McIntyre, the hospital association's communications director, who said the figure has never been higher. "While there seems to be a recovery in the economy, there are a lot of people who still struggle to pay for their health care or who don't have insurance, and these numbers reflect that."


Medicare and Medicaid losses totaled $289 million for the 118 hospitals, the association said; Iowa hospitals derive about 60 percent of their total revenue from those programs. Hospitals also provided an estimated $169 million in programs and services such as public health screenings, support groups and immunizations.


When each of the above categories is taken into account, the hospital association estimates its member hospitals provided "total community benefits" of $1.6 billion last year.


"The programs and services accounted for in the survey were implemented in direct response to the needs of individual communities as well as entire counties and regions," said Kirk Norris, the IHA's president and CEO. "Many of these programs and services simply would not exist without hospital support and leadership."