The Affordable Care Act has reduced significantly how much charity care the Wyoming Medical Center has had to write off since 2011, the hospital's chief financial officer said Tuesday.

That movement continues so far this fiscal year, Yvonne Wigington said.

"With bad debt and charity care, it is trending at a lower rate than we anticipated based on last year," Wigington said.

"We do have six certified financial counselors who have been able to help many patients get on the insurance health exchange, and that has contributed significantly to helping residents of Natrona County obtain insurance," she said.

The insurance health exchange is a key component of the Affordable Care Act, nicknamed Obamacare.

Wigington discussed charity care and other aspects of the Wyoming Medical Center's business during a semiannual meeting with the Natrona County Commission about the hospital's lease.

The nonprofit Wyoming Medical Center, Inc., leases the Natrona County-owned hospital assets, mostly located in the 1200 blocks of East Second and East Third streets. The lease is overseen by the Memorial Hospital of Natrona County, a five-member board of trustees appointed by the Natrona County Commission.

The "rent," in effect, paid by the WMC to the county for the use of the physical assets in the lease is to provide charity care, Wigington said. However, some patients may be able to pay for their care but do not, and that is written off as bad debt.

In recent years, the hospital has revised the ability for patients to apply for charity care, and much of that has been helped by the Affordable Care Act. Wigington added hospital officials are analyzing the U.S. House Republican bill presented Monday that would dismantle much of the Affordable Care Act.

Wigington said at the end of December, the Wyoming Medical Center wrote off $9,837,296 in charity care since July, which at that rate will total $19,674,592 for fiscal year 2017. That marks a sharp decline from 2011 when the hospital wrote off $34,463,359 in charity care.

However, the amount of bad debt written off by the hospital is projected to be $29,363,419 for fiscal year 2017, up from $19,941,260 in 2011.

One reason for the increase in bad debt, Wigington said, has to do with many patients having insurance deductibles of $5,000 or more, and they cannot pay that.

Another aspect of the WMC's lease of the county's hospital assets is to provide care for the prisoners at the jail and to provide for involuntary commitments, she said. Those amounts, with involuntary commitments costing the most, have varied since 2011 from $1.2 million to more than $2.1 million. The county subsidizes the hospital with $120,000 a year.

The lease also charges the Wyoming Medical Center to maintain the value of the physical plant, known as the hospital net assets.

The value of the hospital net assets pegged on June 30, 1995, was $62,934,655.

Since then, the value has risen to $265,649,487, or 422.1 percent.

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