Nathaniel Hoffman's article "Poor Farm Boise" was spot on (BW, News, June 25, 2008). I was proud that he called out the normally sacrosanct hospitals, such as St. Luke's, that profit from the distress of the poor and the sick.
St. Luke's is, technically, a not-for-profit hospital, which enables them to be exempt from county, state and federal taxes. In order to maintain this tax-exempt status they must provide some sort of a community benefit and then publish the benefits provided in an annual report. According to the 2006 annual report, St. Luke's (Boise/Meridian) profited over $46 million.
Of course, this $46 million is not labeled as profit in the report, but instead, "The excess of available income over expenses in support of our mission." I think this label rivals "correctional facility" as one of the most ineffective euphemisms ever concocted. The report goes on to state that St. Luke's provided $27 million in unreimbursed care for Medicare patients. Basically, that $27 million is composed of the difference between the initial hospital charges, which are always inflated, and how much Medicare pays after it adjusts the cost.
I pose two questions to St. Luke's: how much unreimbursed care did you provide for your cronies, the insurance companies? Whatever the amount, I am certain that it dwarfs the discounts given to Medicaid or Medicare. Why not charge everybody one fair and reasonable price? As Paul Woods points out in Hoffman's article, lots of time and energy are wasted in haggling a fair price.