The Wyoming Medical Center had written off $38.1 million in uncompensated care at the end of the first eight months of its fiscal year, the hospital's chief financial officer said last week.

That amounted to 12.5 percent of the hospital's total gross revenues from July 1 through February, Yvonne Wigington said at the monthly meeting of the Memorial Hospital of Natrona County Board of Trustees.

Uncompensated care is the total of bad debt -- the hospital write-off of bills patients don't pay -- and direct charity care, which is provided by the hospital to patients who cannot afford to pay.

Wigington said the total of uncompensated care is half composed of bad debt and half composed of charity care.

That's an improvement over the past decade when bad debt composed the lion's share of total uncompensated care. In fiscal year 2010, bad debt accounted for 60 percent of total uncompensated care. The hospital initiated policies to make it easier for patients to qualify for charity care.

Those who do not pay their bills are subject to legal action.

Wigington said some patients who do not pay, with their bills falling into the bad debt category, often have insurance.

But higher deductibles, say $5,000, amount to more than what patients can afford to pay, so they don't pay at all, she said.

Uncompensated care as a percentage of gross revenues at the Wyoming Medical Center so far this year is close to the 2013 fiscal year, and is in line with other hospitals nationwide, said Serena Cobb, chairwoman of the Natrona County Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees.

The hospital saw the effect of this potential effect on higher deductibles on bad debt when it planned its budget, Cobb said.

The Wyoming Medical Center anticipates it will write off a total of $57.5 million in uncompensated care this year, she said.

The five-member Memorial Hospital board oversees the nonprofit Wyoming Medical Center Inc.'s lease of Natrona County's hospital assets located mostly in the 1200 and 1300 blocks of East Second and East Third Streets. The trustees, appointed by the Natrona County Commission, have the responsibility to ensure the nonprofit medical center maintains the value of the county's hospital assets.

The Wyoming Medical Center's rent of the county's hospital's assets, in effect, is offering charity care and care for prisoners at the county jail.