Sept. 13, 2004 St. Croix hospital patients pay less for medical services than patients anywhere else in the United States, according to a new study.
Juan F. Luis Hospital charges patients $111.63 for every $100 it spends providing health care, according to the study released last week by the California-based Institute for Health and Socio-Economic Policy.
Hospitals in New Jersey, the most expensive state on the list, averaged nearly $415 per $100 of expense. California was second with more than $355.
Puerto Rico ranked 24th on the list at $205.36, just under the national average of $232.40.
"That has to be welcome news to people with limited or no health insurance," said Charles Idelson, a spokesman for the health institute.
Between 17 and 21 percent of U.S. Virgin Islanders don't have health insurance, well above the national average of 13 percent, said A.J. Jones, senior health policy adviser to Delegate Donna M. Christensen.
Inability of patients to pay keeps the ratio low, Jones said, but could lead to a reduced level of service. Half of the 110,000 people in the territory make less than $20,000 a year and about 15 percent make less than $10,000.
The St. Croix hospital administrators are trying creative ways to collect the more than $22 million owed by patients, said hospital spokesman Gregory Davila, who acknowledged the hospital is struggling to make ends meet.
Starting Sept. 21, the hospital will reduce outstanding bills by up to 50 percent to encourage payment.
"We're trying what we can to collect," Davila said.
Part of the problem is a federal limit on Medicaid payments to the territories, he said.
On the mainland, Medicaid pays for as much as $4,000 of hospital bills per recipient, Jones said. In the Virgin Islands, Medicaid pays for just $400.
It was not clear why the study did not include Roy L. Schneider Hospital.
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