Fewer people are seeking and qualifying for charity care at the Wyoming Medical Center, but more people are not paying for the care they receive, the hospital's chief financial officer said last week.

"We're finding more of our patients do have access to insurance coverage, however oftentimes that insurance coverage comes with a higher deductible and not all patients are not able to afford to pay that higher deductible," Yvonne Wigington told the Natrona County Commission.

Overall, the combined charity care and bad debt -- collectively known as uncompensated care -- was $26.7 million from July through December, Wigington said.

Her semi-annual report is a requirement of the non-profit Wyoming Medical Center's lease of the Natrona County-owned hospital assets, which mostly are located in the 1200 block of East Second and East Third streets.

From July through December, the hospital wrote off $6.8 million in charity care, which annualized would be about $13.6 million, far below the previous four years which were $24.6 million in 2015 to $21.1 million in 2018.

About 86.6% of the charity care was for Natrona County residents, with the rest for residents of other counties, led by Fremont County. The hospital is required to provide care for anyone who needs it.

The picture is much different for bad debt, which the hospital writes off for people who do not pay. That is often the result of people who have insurance but cannot afford to pay very high deductibles.

From July through December, the Wyoming Medical Center wrote off $19.9 million, which annualized would be $39.8 million, far above the previous four years. In 2018, the hospital wrote off $32.2 million in bad debt.

Natrona County residents were responsible for 71.5% of the bad debt, followed by Fremont County residents at 9.9% and out-of-state residents at 6.7%.

The Wyoming Medical Center is responsible for prisoner care and involuntary commitments, which totaled $614,476 -- $734,476 minus the county's $120,000 payment for prisoner care -- from July through December.

The Wyoming Medical Center also has increased the value of the county hospital assets from a base line of $62.9 million in 1995 to $313.6 million, Wiginton said. Adjusted for inflation, the value of the assets has increased 302.5%.

 

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The nonprofit Wyoming Medical Center Inc., was formed in 1986.

Until then, it was known as the Memorial Hospital of Natrona County, which was owned and operated by Natrona County. After the creation of the WMC, the county continued to own the physical plant of the hospital. The WMC leases the property from the county to perform health care. The WMC's rent, in effect, is to maintain the value of the physical plant and provide care for the indigent and prisoners at the county jail.

A five-member board of trustees -- called the Memorial Hospital of Natrona County -- is appointed by the Natrona County Commission and oversees the WMC's lease of the county's property.