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Responding to Financial Pressures. The Effect of Managed Care on Hospitals´ Provision of Charity Care

Núria Mas

No 2009-14, Working Papers from FEDEA

Abstract: The US relies on charitable medical care to serve the uninsured, most of which is offered by hospitals that act as providers of last resort and that constitute the safety net. Traditionally, these hospitals have been able to finance their provision of unfunded care through a complex system of cross-subsidies. The objective of this paper is to analyze which are the effects that financial pressures have on the provision of charity care by hospitals. To do so we look at the effect of price pressures and at the cost-controlling mechanisms imposed by managed care. Our hypothesis is that price competition or other forms of financial pressures, undermines the ability of a hospital to cross-subsidize and challenges their survival. Our results show that managed care has a disproportionately negative effect on the closure of safety net hospitals. Moreover, amongst those that remain open, in areas where managed care penetration increases the most, safety net hospitals react by closing the health services most commonly used by the uninsured (emergency rooms, obstetrics and alcohol and drug treatments).

Date: 2009-03
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