Safety Net Hospitals provide care for the low income, uninsured, and most vulnerable populations. They have an “open door” policy that offers care for all patients whether they have the ability to pay for the care they receive or not. Typically, these hospitals serve a large portion of Medicare, Medicaid (known as MediCal in California) and uninsured patients. And it is these hospitals that may find themselves in a financial problem come October 2012 when Medicare changes their hospital payment levels based on quality of care. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will use quality scores to dole out bonuses and penalties that will amount to 2% of Medicare payments. If the Safety Net hospitals don’t receive the required scores to earn bonuses they will be penalized financially for it. With a large portion of their patients already not paying the full amount for their care received, and in many cases not paying anything at all, taking another financial hit will just create greater hardship for these hospitals. If these financial hardships cause the safety net hospitals to be unable to service all of the low paying and non-paying patients, who will care for them?
If you would like to learn more about the Safety Net Hospitals in California take a look at California Health Care Safety Net Institute.