Sutter Health Network Expands Charity Health Care Program
Invests $800+ Million to Help Californians in Need of Critical Health Care
SACRAMENTO, Calif., April 26, 2005 – As the number of Californians without health insurance continues to rise, the Sutter Health family of hospitals, physicians and other health care service providers expanded its charity care program to help more people get the health care they need. As a result, during 2004, the not-for-profit network invested a record $814 million to help provide care and services for the poor and underserved.
"It's critical for programs like ours to expand so people and families don't fall through the cracks,” said Sutter Health President and CEO Patrick Fry. "More than a year ago, after a full year of planning and development, we proudly rolled out an enhanced charity care program that offers free or substantially discounted care to nearly 90 percent of the uninsured in our state. We believe our program is one of the most generous in the country."
According to the California Healthcare Foundation, spending on health care represents more than 15 percent of the U.S. economy and is higher than virtually any industrialized nation. For minimum-wage workers and the chronically ill, the cost of health insurance is increasingly unaffordable.
"Our No. 1 priority is providing patients and families with the highest quality care regardless of their ability to pay, and our charity care policy reflects this fact," said Shelly McGriff, R.N., Chief Nurse Executive for Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento, a Sutter Health affiliate. "As an example, a family of four earning $78,000 annually, would qualify for significantly discounted care under our Charity care policy. Many others would receive free care."
Sutter Health updated its charity care policy in February 2004 after a survey of the system's affiliates found a variety of practices. "We felt a more consistent approach to charity care throughout our system was appropriate so our affiliates agreed on a common policy that we believe is among the most fair and generous in the country," said Fry.
During 2004, Sutter assumed a record $814 million in costs related to providing care and services for the poor and underserved and benefits for the broader community, or nearly 14 percent of net patient and capitation revenue. This investment includes charity care, the unpaid costs of participating in public programs including Medi-Cal and Medicare, and investments in medical research, health education and community-based public benefit programs such as school-based clinics and prenatal care services. As a result of an expanded charity care policy implemented throughout the Sutter Health system in early 2004, Sutter's charity care write-offs grew 42 percent, from $109 million in 2003 to $155 million in 2004.
"We will continue to take a leadership role in improving predictability, affordability, choice and transparency. Fixing the health care financing system is not going to be easy and it's not going to happen over night, but we're committed to doing our part, and we’re off to a strong start," concluded Fry.