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Report Shows Strong Performance, Funding Challenges for Essential Hospitals


Essential hospitals are maintaining high-quality care and patient satisfaction, even as operating margins fall further into the red and uncompensated care remains disproportionately high.

Essential hospitals also continue to supply the bulk of vital services, including trauma, burn, and psychiatric care, in the nation’s 10 largest cities. And they provide more physician training than other teaching hospitals.

These findings and more are reported in Essential Hospitals Vital Data, America’s Essential Hospitals’ latest hospital characteristics report on essential hospitals, which are those hospitals that are committed to serving the vulnerable.

“The data clearly show our hospitals not only meet their commitment to vulnerable patients, but go far beyond that by serving the entire community,” America’s Essential Hospitals President and CEO Bruce Siegel, MD, MPH, said. “We all benefit when these hospitals have the resources they need to meet their mission.”

According to the report, association members provide about 17 percent of all uncompensated care nationally, or about $7.8 billion dollars’ worth. They also operated with a 3.2 percent loss in 2013, compared with a 5.7 percent average profit for all hospitals nationally.

“These are unsustainable numbers, even with more insured patients under the Affordable Care Act,” Siegel said. “Coverage growth won’t keep pace with the funding cuts our hospitals face, especially in states that choose not to expand Medicaid.”

The hospitals included in the report together provided non-emergency outpatient care to 38 million patients in 2013 and averaged nearly 23,000 inpatient discharges, more than three times the inpatient volume of other acute care hospitals. Nearly half of patients discharged by members of America’s Essential Hospitals were minorities. Also, about half of all inpatient discharges and outpatient visits were for uninsured or Medicaid patients.

America’s Essential Hospitals also found that its members in the nation’s 10 most-populated cities operate more than a third of all level I trauma centers and psychiatric care beds and 69 percent of burn care beds available to treat the critically injured. They also fill a significant teaching role, training an average of 254 physicians each in 2013.

The association also collected data on quality and patient experience measures and found strong performance by essential hospitals in both. Results from a federal survey of patient satisfaction show 9 out of 10 patients were “satisfied” or “highly satisfied” with care at essential hospitals. The report also shows that in nearly all cases, member hospitals provided all recommended care for heart attack and heart failure patients.

The association defines essential hospitals as those having a core commitment to caring for the uninsured and other vulnerable patients as well as providing services in four other areas: high-acuity care, such as trauma and burn care; health professionals training; comprehensive, coordinated care to communities; and public health.

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About America’s Essential Hospitals

America’s Essential Hospitals is the leading association and champion for hospitals and health systems dedicated to high-quality care for all, including the most vulnerable. Since 1981, America’s Essential Hospitals has initiated, advanced, and preserved programs and policies that help these hospitals ensure access to care. It supports members with advocacy, policy development, research, and education.

Our more than 250 members are vital to their communities, providing primary through trauma care, disaster response, health professionals training, research, public health programs, and other services. They innovate and adapt to lead the broader health care community toward more effective and efficient care.

Carl Graziano


About the Author

Graziano is senior director of communications for America's Essential Hospitals.

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