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February 14, 1986

Uncompensated Care

JAMA. 1986;255(6):796. doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03370060110030

Most physicians and hospitals have always provided needed medical care regardless of patients' ability to pay. While most patients do pay for the health care services they receive, there are many individuals who are unable to pay or pay fully for such services. Such uncompensated care, a phenomenon receiving increased concern in the health care sector, is represented by charges that have been reduced or eliminated for patients experiencing financial difficulties (charity care) and by unpaid bills or bad debt.

While data on the total dollar amount of uncompensated care provided in the United States are not available, information from the American Medical Association's (AMA) Socioeconomic Monitoring System and the American Hospital Association provide some indication of its magnitude. Results from the AMA's Socioeconomic Monitoring System survey for the fourth quarter of 1983 indicate that, overall, 76.8% of physicians in fee-for-service practices provided some free or reduced-fee care in 1982.