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Look back: Auburn hospital faces rising uninsured

Oct. 13, 1996

AUBURN — They are sick or injured and need medical attention. But who pays?

With a growing percentage of Americans going without health insurance, hospitals may find it harder to give the same quality care, according to Auburn Memorial Hospital's administrator.

"The underlying trend line is not good. And that's in an economy that has been growing for the past six years," said AMH administrator Christopher Rogers. "What happens when the next recession hits?"

A report released in September by the Lewin Group for the American Hospital Association estimated that the number of uninsured Americans grew from 30.6 million in 1988 to 39.6 million in 1995. The survey projects there will be 45.6 million uninsured people by 2002.

In New York state the number of uninsured rose from 2.5 million to about 2.9 million since 1994, according to the state Health Department.

At Auburn Memorial treating the uninsured costs about $1.5 million a year, Rogers said. The hospital's annual budget totals around $65 million.

What makes the figures more daunting for Rogers is that AMH is a public not-for-profit hospital.

"We are a medical safety net hospital," Rogers said. "We never turn anyone away. It's important to understand you can't separate health policy from fiscal policy. The burden is going to increase for AMH."

— Compiled by David Wilcox

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