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Minnesota hospitals covered more than $2 billion in care in 2011, says new report

Gonda Building at the Mayo Clinic.
Gonda Building at the Mayo Clinic.
cursedthing via Flickr

Minnesota hospitals are increasingly picking up the tab for our rising health care costs.

In 2011, they covered $509.5 million in uncompensated treatment, according to a new Minnesota Hospital Association report that tracks how 144 hospitals and health systems in the state spend their considerable resources. That's a 10 percent increase over the past 5 years, and comes about half from patients' bad debt and half from charity care.

But that's spare change next to the amount they poured into the government's cut corners: Minnesota hospitals spent $1.5 billion to treat patients on Medicare and Medicaid in 2011, when those programs didn't reimburse the providers for the full cost of care.

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That huge number is 26 percent higher than it was the year before.

The report breaks down where all this treatment is being given by region throughout the state. The area that includes the Twin Cities posted the steepest numbers, with the Mayo Clinic's region coming in a close second.

Metro hospitals covered $134.5 million in care outright, and nearly $433 million in uncovered Medicaid costs. Those numbers contributed to a total "community benefits" dollar-amount (as defined by the IRS) of $934.7 million.

But factor in other expenses, like community outreach and $433.4 million in extra Medicare expenses, and a less-concrete figure called  "value" jumps to over $1.5 billion -- just for the Metro area.

The report singled out rising obesity as a factor in soaring costs. 26 percent of Minnesotans are obese, the study notes, citing a previous report that indicates we risk seeing that shoot to 54.6 percent by 2030. If we could reduce the state's average BMI by 5 percent, Minnesota could save $11.6 billion in obesity-related health care costs.

But barring that, as we get fatter and fatter, at least we have good hospitals nearby.


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