Manatee County hospital cuts indigent and uninsured patient care


MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Last month, Bradenton-based We Care Manatee received a letter in their inbox from Manatee Memorial Hospital, notifying them that the hospital will no longer accept “unfunded referrals” for elective procedures from the nonprofit or people enrolled in the Manatee County Healthcare Plan, also known as the “Good County Plan”.

For the last 25 years, We Care Manatee has helped serve Manatee County residents who are uninsured through a variety of programs. Their specialty program, where doctors volunteer to see patients in their facilities and care for them, is the one most impacted by the hospital’s recent decision.

The change went into effect June 1.

“At first it was a little bit of a shock because it is a big change. I think we have moved past that shock phase into problem-solving and now we are seeing things happening and we are seeing hope and light at the end of the tunnel,” said executive director Shannon Hoyt.

Hoyt says the nonprofit has managed to get services such as labs and imaging back online for its clients, however surgeries remain on hold.

The letter from the hospital cites financial reasons for the decision.

“Through the years, Manatee Memorial Hospital has had partial funding agreements with the County to support indigent care. However, this funding has covered only a fraction of the expense, while the demand for unfunded services has escalated significantly. Since January 1, 2024, Manatee Memorial has not had an agreement with the County for unfunded care, yet Manatee Memorial has continued to provide services for this population. Our projected deficit from unfunded care, beyond charity care, amounts to several millions of dollars. The significant cost of unreimbursed care is unsustainable. We continue to be a supportive community partner and will maintain open discussions with Manatee County regarding solutions, however, we need to make this difficult, yet responsible, fiscally prudent decision,” the letter states.

During an April meeting, hospital CEO Tom McDougal told county commissioners he needed more funding to offset the costs of caring for indigent and uninsured patients, which at the time sat at around $2.7 million, leaving a more than $20 million shortfall for all free care.

“I simply can’t afford to be doing this without being compensated for it. It takes away care from other patients. it takes away resources that other patients need,” McDougal said during the meeting.

The county is now working on a new way to use the funding previously allocated for the hospital.

“The county is looking at unencumbered hospital-related funds in the counties indigent healthcare program. We are looking to allocate those funds back into the community to get the people who need access to health care, appropriate access to health care,” said Deputy Director of Public Safety for Manatee County James Crutchfield. “The community has a network of providers that have leaned in to ensure that those who are disenfranchised are able to get essential care.”

An adoption of a resolution on that change is listed on the consent agenda for a county meeting set for next week.


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