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Week of March 18, 2013

U-M Health System donates more than $360M in services

The U-M Health System provided nearly $362 million worth of hospital-based community benefits in fiscal year 2011, according to a new Michigan Health & Hospital Association report released last week.

That figure includes a wide range of community-focused activities supported by the U-M Hospitals & Health Centers, from free or reduced-price care to health classes and support for training new doctors and medical research.

The amount has increased 18 percent in just one year, and nearly 33 percent in five years.

A large and growing proportion of the UMHS community commitment comes from providing health care to people without insurance, or whose insurance doesn’t cover the full cost of their care — a category known as uncompensated care.

With $197 million in these unpaid hospital-care costs in 2011, UMHS accounted for more than 10 percent of all uncompensated care at Michigan hospitals that contributed to the MHA report. That doesn’t include the $14 million in charity care absorbed by the Medical School’s Faculty Group Practice.

Uncompensated care includes charity care, discounts granted to patients who pay for their own care and unpaid patient debts. It also includes the difference between the cost of caring for patients in programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and state or local plans, and the reimbursement UMHS received for their care.

All told, the amount absorbed by UMHS has risen by 42 percent in just five years.

The remaining $165 million worth of UMHS hospital-funded community benefit activities includes the unreimbursed cost of educating new doctors and other health professionals, hospital funds invested in medical research, and a host of other community-oriented programs, services and activities directly supported by UMHS.

“As the only hospital serving patients from every county in Michigan, and one of the nation’s leading teaching hospitals and biomedical research hubs, we carry out our commitment to the community in many ways every day,” says Doug Strong, chief executive officer of the U-M Hospitals and Health Centers. “As funding for research and medical education gets tighter, and our state continues to have many people with reduced or no health coverage, we have not only maintained but increased our support for programs.”

He notes that the newly enacted federal budget sequestration will put even more pressure on the Health System’s bottom line, potentially reducing its hospital and physician fee Medicare reimbursement and federal research funds by more than $30 million a year if it is not overturned.

Beyond the care provided at U-M’s own medical facilities, UMHS physicians, nurses, medical students, residents and other clinicians donate their time to provide free health care services at various sites including the Corner Health Clinic, Robert J. Delonis Center, Hope Clinic, Packard Community Clinic, and Migrant Health Clinics.

The recently expanded Hope@UMHS effort has allowed hundreds of Hope Clinic patients to receive specialty care at special volunteer-run clinics held at UMHS facilities. And in 2012, U-M medical students and faculty began offering a Student Run Free Clinic in the rural town of Pinckney – and will continue to do so once a replacement is found for its recently fire-ravaged building.

At seven middle and high schools in the Ann Arbor, Willow Run and Ypsilanti public school systems, UMHS teams with the Michigan Department of Community Health and Department of Education to fund and operate school-based health centers. Known as the Regional Alliance for Healthy Schools, this partnership also relies on other sponsors and donors.

UMHS also sponsors the Housing Bureau for Seniors, which helps thousands of adults over age 55 maintain affordable housing and prevent foreclosure, and a broad range of classes, lectures and community health screenings and events. It also runs the Ann Arbor Meals on Wheels service, which provides hot nutritious meals cooked in the hospital kitchens to hundreds of homebound people daily.

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