Public picks up more of hospital tab

Medicare and Medicaid programs paid for more than half of all patient days at Colorado hospitals in 2005, fresh evidence that taxpayers are increasingly picking up the tab for health care at hospitals.

Data released by the Colorado Health and Hospital Association show Medicare and Medicaid combined to pay for 52 percent of patient hospital days in Colorado – the highest percentage ever reported for the state by the association.

Medicare, a federal program that covers people over age 65, paid for 34.2 percent of patient days statewide last year. Medicaid, a program for the poor that is equally funded by the state and federal taxpayers, picked up the tab for 17.8 percent of patient days, the report showed.

The balance of patient days are paid by private insurance, individual payments and other forms of payment such as workers’ compensation.

The government programs, especially Medicaid, do not fully cover the costs for hospital stays. As a result, hospitals are forced to shift the financial burden to private-paying patients and employers through higher insurance premiums, said Stuart Guterman, director of the Medicare’s Future program at the Commonwealth Fund, a Washington, D.C., foundation.

There are an estimated 46 million uninsured Americans. That includes about 767,000 people in Colorado, or 17 percent of the state population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Read the full article in the Denver Post . . .

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