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Frequently Asked Questions

What is an essential hospital?

Essential hospitals provide a substantial volume of care to low-income patients, the uninsured, and others who face social and economic hardships. While many essential hospitals are publicly owned and operated by local or state governments, some are private nonprofits or hybrid structures. What essential hospitals do share — and what distinguishes them from other hospitals — is their mission and commitment to care for vulnerable people. Essential hospitals share four other characteristics. They:

  • train the future health care workforce;
  • provide comprehensive, coordinated care;
  • provide specialized, lifesaving services; and
  • advance public health and health equity

How are essential hospitals funded?

Essential hospitals rely on a variety of funding sources to support the care they provide. Uninsured, Medicaid, and Medicare patients account for more than 75 percent of essential hospitals’ inpatient admissions and nearly 70 percent of outpatient visits. Our members provide a disproportionate share of the nation’s uncompensated care and operate with margins substantially lower than other hospitals — about 4 percent, on average, compared with 7.8 percent for all hospitals nationwide.

What role do essential hospitals play in their communities?

We represent 300 hospitals and health systems across the country. These hospitals provide primary through quaternary care and regularly work beyond their walls to overcome food insecurity, homelessness, and other social factors that affect health. They anchor their communities with jobs and economic activity, and they serve on the front lines of disasters, disease epidemics, and other communitywide threats. Essential hospitals also train many health care professionals, often at levels beyond the federal graduate medical education funding they receive.

Who depends on essential hospitals?

Essential hospitals’ commitment to caring for all people, including the most vulnerable, has made them providers of choice for patients of virtually every ethnicity and language. Racial and ethnic minorities made up 68 percent of member discharges in 2016. In communities served by essential hospitals, an estimated 25.3 million individuals live below the federal poverty line and more than 19.4 million individuals are uninsured. More than 10 million people in our members’ communities have only limited access to healthy food, and 350,000 struggle with homelessness.

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