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Prognosis: Profits

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Readers react to investigation into hospital profits

Prognosis: Profits, an investigative series in last week’s Charlotte Observer and News & Observer (of Raleigh), examined the profits and practices of many nonprofit hospitals in Charlotte and across the state.

The newspapers found that Charlotte-area hospitals generate some of the nation’s largest profit margins, pay their top executives millions of dollars, and charge prices that are about 5 percent higher than the national average and comparable to those of larger cities.

As nonprofits, most hospitals are exempt from property, sales and income taxes, and they’re expected to give back to their communities, largely by providing care to those who can’t afford it. While all hospitals accept patients who can’t pay, many patients who can’t pay find themselves pursued by collection agencies – and thousands are hit with lawsuits that result in liens on their houses.

Here is a sampling of what we heard:

• Congratulations to the staff of the Observer for taking on the issues of our not-for-profit and non-profit medical industry….I admit I have received quality care from both Carolinas HealthCare and Novant Health. I have had the benefit of insurance coverage paid for by my employer and myself that mitigated my costs….Yet the heavy handed manner in which Carolinas pursued me by telephone just one week after my discharge regarding bills I had not even received was enough to make me ill all over again.

Perhaps our elected officials will feel the pressures and choose to investigate and then legislate new guidelines and laws for this industry.

Wayne Harrison, Charlotte

• How can you write about this without hitting on the root problem? Too few people have insurance. We help people apply for Medicaid every day. We treat people who decided not to get insurance because they were healthy.

It is not the job of hospitals to provide free care to everyone who can’t pay. It is the job of all of us to come together and support a single payer system. Today’s article really missed the boat!

Anonymous

• My wife and daughter passed away last year…. (Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina) initially denied all coverage for (my daughter) apparently because I was supposed to call and have them add her as a dependent within 30 days of her birth even though she had passed away within hours of the emergency c-section…. The various billing departments from (Carolinas Medical Center) have inundated me with mail, phone calls asking for my late wife, collections agencies as well as very impressive bill well into six figures.

I have nothing but great things to say about all of the nurses, doctors and other staff…. However, the billing nightmare after the fact has poured salt on already deep wounds.

Mike Madden, Charlotte

• Reviewing the numbers it seems (Carolinas HealthCare System) provides the most dollars for charity care and each CHS facility is upwards of 5% annually. The (Charlotte Observer) has such a biased view against CHS and clearly is biased in their view of healthcare. Tell me which other corporations or industries in Charlotte provide as much assistance as CHS does relative to their charity care? I may be way off, bit I haven’t heard anything about the charity care Scott Clark Toyota or Harris Teeter provides residents of Char-Meck. Unless you count my "vic-card", I’ve received no charity from them!

Anonymous

• As a family physician, provider of health care services, and as a 61 year old consumer of the same, I am appalled by the takeover of medicine by clearly for profit entities and bean counters…. On a daily basis, I care for people who are afraid to go to local hospitals or are shunned callously and shrewdly by local hospitals because they have no insurance. Many un and underinsured fear financial ruin by stepping into an emergency department…Becoming a hospital administrator is far more profitable than working in the trenches, especially “primary care.”

Dr. Louis Moran, New Bern, N.C.

• Remarkable how the Observer has portrayed one of the most amazing turnarounds in Charlotte history as a negative for the area. Charlotte Memorial Hospital was the place no one wanted to go to. Carolinas HealthCare System is a regional referral center that has the facilities, technology and personnel to handle the most difficult cases that other area hospitals would dare not touch…

Charlotte’s healthcare segment has single-handedly propped up the economy with increased jobs and construction projects during a time when banks were shedding thousands of jobs. Too bad the Observer has overlooked these many contributions to making Charlotte a better place to live and work.

Anonymous

• It’s about time someone covered this!!! As a public health grad from UNC, I have known for sometime that hospitals are part of this health care crisis too!!! Kudos for y’all covering this! Thanks for speaking up for ME in a way I haven’t been able to.

Lauren Thie, Chapel Hill

• Hospitals give care to thousands of people knowing full well they will never be paid for that care, but they give it anyway. Do people with no income, living off the government really care about their credit score? I really doubt it.

Anonymous

• This is a fine example of what reporting is supposed to be about. The first job of a free press is to keep the public informed with the facts regarding any important issues…. I certainly hope this is the beginning of a trend to inform the public by presenting facts and not the opinions, half truths and outright propaganda we have been presented with for a number of years now.

Daniel J. McGraw, Denver, N.C.

• Why is a Charlotte paper running stories about Durham and Thomasville, etc.... It appears the (Charlotte Observer) is deliberately trying to muddy the waters and stir up the gullible public, most of whom don’t have a clue about how complex this issue is. Shame on this biased and one-sided series which presents a distorted view on the issue.

Anonymous

I applaud the Charlotte Observer for writing these articles. Unfortunately, I see little coming out of this. Our elected officials can put a stop to this madness but I’m sure they receive plenty of campaign contributions from the medical industry and those who don’t and propose legislation, would suddenly find themselves to be the benefactors of large contributions.

Anonymous

• These people get such large pay increases while those of us who do the everyday registration, insurance follow up, housekeeping and so forth in the hospital get a 2-4% increase in a yr which typically amounts to about .50 to .75 an hour based on your salary. Do we work as hard, yes we do, but our compensation packages are pitiful. They’ve quit offering retirement pensions to employees now as well, where up to 10 years ago pensions were offered. With the profits that the hospitals make their employees should have decent healthcare, dental and eye care coverage but we do not. We get 1000.00 a year for dental and less than that for Eye Care and we have to pay out the rear for it. The system is broken.

• My wife and daughter passed away last year after a dump truck slammed into their diaper service delivery van. In a few short hours, they racked up a bill well into the six figures. I have insurance as did the dump truck driver, but the folks at (Carolinas Medical Center) are still coming after me for a very large sum of money. Even after repeated warnings at how disturbing and traumatizing it is, they have tracked down my personal cell phone and call often asking for my wife. You would think that you might check to see if the person survived before calling their husband and asking for his late wife, but I guess they don’t care. I appreciate greatly everything they tried to do for my family, but such a large bill for a few hours of work is obscene even if they had survived…. I guess I should probably declare bankruptcy and get a different cell phone number.

Anonymous

Compiled by Karen Garloch

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The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.

Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email local@charlotteobserver.com to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.

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