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Physicians Pulling Back from Charity Care

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Publication Date: August 2001

Publisher(s): Center for Studying Health System Change

Author(s): Marie C. Reed; Peter J. Cunningham; Jeffrey Stoddard

Series: Issue Brief No. 42

Topic: Health (Health services for low income people)

Type: Brief

Abstract:

Physicians have long provided care to the medically indigent for free or at reduced rates. However, recent findings from the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC) indicate that the proportion of physicians providing charity care dropped from 76 percent to 72 percent between 1997 and 1999. In the short term, most medically indigent people are still getting care. But policy makers should take note that reduced physician participation in charity care will hurt the poor if—as projected—growth in physician supply slows and the number of uninsured rises along with escalating health care costs. This Issue Brief discusses the extent of the decline in physician provision of charity care, the reasons for the decline and implications for the future of the safety net.