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Unpaid bills hurt AMED’s finances

AMED has been writing off increasing amounts of bad debt due to patients who die without estates and without insurance policies that AMED can access, according to Executive Director Gary Watters.

The loss is running $15,000 a month, twice as high as it did last year, Watters told the board this week.

That represents a total annual loss of $180,000 — $90,000 more than in 2021.

The annual additional loss alone represents approximately the cost of an employee or a vehicle.

The write-off from such patients has “increased and increased and increased,” Watters said.

Four years ago, perhaps 40% of AMED’s deceased patients lacked an estate and accessible insurance. Now, it’s about 90%, he said.

Sometimes they don’t have insurance and sometimes AMED is simply unable to learn whether they have it, Watters said.

At this point, he doesn’t know how to fix the problem — or if there even is a solution.

“It’s one of our struggles, to try to figure it out,” he said.

Informally, he’s heard from peers that the problem is growing more serious in the industry. But the subject hasn’t appeared yet as a topic in trade publications, as far as he knows.

When issues do surface in trade publications, agencies can share their approaches, and collectively find solutions, he said.

Many deceased patients may have health insurance, especially given the increased numbers of people insured through the Affordable Care Act, according to Watters.

But AMED can’t necessarily find commercial policies connected with deceased patients via the Medicare website, he said.

And many deceased patients aren’t even old enough for Medicare, he said.

AMED tracks estate notices in the newspaper, but those are not filed for everyone, and consulting the state Insurance Department isn’t likely to be useful.

The problem is most prevalent among patients without family and those who die “at the scene” — or at home, Watters said.

More people have been dying at home since COVID-19 began, he said.

“A lot are not going to the hospital for whatever reason,” he said — although if they do die at a hospital, officials there can share information with AMED about insurance policies, if they exist, he added.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 814-949-7038.

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