Barton County Memorial Hospital's ER Sees Increase in Uninsured Patient Visits

Barton County Memorial Hospital's ER Sees Increase in Uninsured Patient Visits

Medical personnel say the problem is some people can't afford insurance under the Affordable Care Act, but make too much to qualify for Medicaid.
LAMAR, MO.--- "Since Medicaid didn't expand their program or Missouri didn't expand their Medicaid program, then those people are left without insurance," said Angela Moreno, BCMH Application Counselor. 

Hospital administrators says that's causing Barton County Memorial to see an increase in unpaid emergency medical bills.

"With Affordable Care, more people were suppose to be covered. But actually, what we've seen is that we went from about 17% of our ER visits were self pay and now we're at about 20%," said Paul Stebbins, BCMH Emergency Room Director. 

Emergency rooms cannot turn a patient away regardless of whether that person can pay or not.

"So we're seeing a higher increase in our self pay percentage that many times never recuperate those cost," said Stebbins. 

Medical experts say with a higher number of self paid patients unable to pay their bills, it forces the hospital to make drastic choices to make up those costs, like laying people off.

"We've seen that a lot of hospitals, area wide as well, just recently who've had to lay people off because the reimbursement isn't where it use to be. When you have higher self pay and less people who are able to pay their bills, you have to make ends meet somewhere and unfortunately that's a lot of times laying people off," said Stebbins. 

So for health care providers it's uncertain how long they will be affected by patients who are unable to pay.

"Honestly, we don't know. That's the big unknown, is how we're going to continue to operate when we continue to have less and less reimbursement and higher cost," said Stebbins. 
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