The Wyoming Medical Center budget for uncompensated care is coming in nearly $7 million less than expected so far this fiscal year, according to a new report.

Last year, the nonprofit Wyoming Medical Center Inc., anticipated it would have written off $49.1 million through April for uncompensated care -- the total of its legally obligated charity care for those who cannot pay, and bad debt when patients refuse to pay.

But as of April 30, the last month for which figures are available that number came in at $42.4 million the hospital's Chief Financial Officer Yvonne Wigington said Tuesday.

The $42.4 million figure is split almost evenly between the amount, $20.9 million, the hospital writes off for charity patients and the amount, $21.5 million, the hospital writes off as bad debt. Those figures are $3.5 million less than budgeted for charity care and $3.l million budgeted for bad debt, according to Wigington's report.

In April alone, the Medical Center wrote of $3.8 million in uncompensated care. Of that total, 241 people applied for $1.8 million in charity care. However, the hospital wrote off nearly $2 million in bad debt for 800 people.

Wigington credited the overall decline in writing off uncompensated care  to more people signing up for the health care exchange in Wyoming, which became available through the Affordable Care Act.

Hospital staff have been helping people obtain insurance, too, she said.

"We have certified counselors to help individuals enroll in the health care exchange," Wiginton said. "So we have seen significant activity in that area, which helps those who perhaps in the past did not have insurance coverage and now do have insurance coverage."

While the number of insured people has risen, some patients' bills are still written off as bad debt, she said.

Some insurance policies require deductibles up to $5,000, Wigington said.

So when a person needs health care, they may not be able to pay for such a high deductibe. They obtain care from the hospital, but cannot afford the deductible, so the hospital writes off that treatment, she said.

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