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September 29, 2011

Charity care and total community benefit is on the rise in Montana hospitals, including Holy Rosary Healthcare, according to a recently released study from the Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock. Uncompensated care at the 22 hospitals studied increased by $24 million in 2009, totaling $136 million, and accounted for more than 5 percent of their operating expenses.

Bullock noted that most Montana hospitals are dedicating an increasing percentage of their expenses for charity care and the value of their uncompensated care exceeded the value of their tax exemptions.

The study released last week evaluating 2009 business operations is the fourth annual survey evaluating the issues and facts related to the charitable purposes and other consumer protection issues of not-for-profit hospitals in the state. Areas evaluated in the study include charity care, total uncompensated care, charity care and financial assistance policies and practices available to patients, cost/pricing of care, total community benefit compared with the value of tax exemption, and related charitable operations of hospital Foundations.

Uncompensated care is the total of hospital's charity care and bad debt. In 2009, Holy Rosary Healthcare had $1,547,854 in charity care and $2,470,444 in total uncompensated care. Holy Rosary's annual charity care equaled 4.28% of operating expenses, which was the highest among the hospitals studied in 2009.

"We're a mission-driven organization and so providing care to those in need, regardless of the ability to pay, is central to what we do at Holy Rosary Healthcare," commented Paul Lewis, Holy Rosary interim CEO. "The increase in our charity care and total community benefit over the last few years is in direct response to what our patients and larger community have needed. It certainly impacts our financial performance, emphasizes the need to be good stewards of our resources, and adds an extra dimension to not-for-profit healthcare."

Total annual community benefit for Holy Rosary Healthcare rose to $3,354,497 in 2009 which was 9.28 percent of operating costs, ranking Holy Rosary among the top five in the state. Other hospitals in the top five were St. Peter's (Helena), Sidney Health Center, Marcus Daily (Hamilton), and Francis Mahon (Glasgow).

The cost of care was also evaluated at the 22 hospitals, as well. The cost at each of the hospitals for eight of the most common reasons for inpatient hospitalization in 2009 were evaluated. Holy Rosary Healthcare, Cental Montana Medical Center (Lewistown), St. Joseph Hospital (Polson), and St. Peter's (Helena) had the most consistently low prices. Billings Clinic, Community Medical Center (Missoula), Marcus Daly (Hamilton), and North Valley (Whitefish) had the most consistently highest prices.

Additional notable findings specific to Holy Rosary Healthcare include:

  • 99.58% of people who applied for charity care at Holy Rosary in 2009 were approved. The report noted all 22 hospitals experienced a dramatic increase in the number of charity applications received compared with 2008; a 52.5% increase statewide from 27,200 in 2008 to 41,500 in 2009.
  • Holy Rosary Healthcare in Miles City was among five other hospitals in the state with the most patient-friendly charity care policy. At Holy Rosary Healthcare, as well as St. James (Butte), St. Vincent (Billings), St. Patrick (Missoula), and St. Joseph (Polson), charity care begins when a patient's household income is at 400 percent of the poverty level. A full-write off occurs for anyone at or below 200 percent of poverty at these five hospitals.
  • Holy Rosary Healthcare and Livingston Healthcare were the only two hospitals in non-urban areas of Montana that provided financial assistance, charity care information, and search capabilities to find this information on their websites.
  • Holy Rosary Healthcare Foundation was among the most efficiently run hospital charitable foundations in the state according to the study. The HRH Foundation was the top-performing foundation among charitable entities in a rural Montana market and ranked seventh statewide for the most efficient based on the percent of funds raised being used for charity programs and projects.