March 31, 2015

Tuesday's Number: 2015 Q1 Recap

It's hard to believe we've closed the books on the first quarter of 2015 already, isn't it?

For the Tuesday's Number tracking, have we turned the corner? Maybe reached a place where we would start seeing some consistency in the number, keeping it low? After all, about a week ago we hit the fifth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act.

A couple of housekeeping things, before we get to the recap. I started tracking this in late 2012, and have full-year data beginning in 2013. I've changed how I track things over the years; for example, in 2013, I didn't have individual breakdowns for each of the four Syracuse hospitals; that's been in place since the first quarter of 2014.

And, it wasn't until this year that I started 'crediting' satisfied judgments, subtracting them from the overall total. I decided to do that this year, since there's a reasonable possibility that the judgments being satisfied today may have been in the filings since I started tracking the numbers. That said, I did some tinkering on the numbers from 2013 and 2014 so that the satisfied judgments are now removed from the totals to give us a more apples to apples comparison.

So, how'd we do?
  • There were 262 judgments, satisfied judgments and bankruptcy filings this quarter, compared with 253 in the first quarter of 2014 and 311 in the first quarter of 2013.
  • The total dollar value of the filings for 2015 is $5,481,379.  For the same time period in 2014, the total was $5,163,376 and for 2013, the first quarter total was $6,992,112.
  • This quarter had the second lowest new judgment total (good), the second lowest satisfied judgment total (bad), and the second highest bankruptcy total (worse). Overall, it's the third lowest quarterly total since I started tracking. 
  • In nine quarters, the total of all filings (new judgments + bankruptcies - satisfied judgments) is a whopping $56,394,814.

I've been watching this for a long time, and every time I do a recap, I'm blown away by the amount of money that is reflected here.  I'm boggled by what the people of Central New York could do if they didn't have this kind of medical debt hanging over their heads, whether or not some of it may be self-inflicted. 

I wonder what our hospitals could do if they weren't saddled with trying to collect this money, but instead were investing it in, say, community health services, working on quality initiatives, improving health outcomes, or training more primary care physicians, rural practitioners or urban health specialists.

I wonder what insurance companies could do with premiums and administrative costs if they weren't burdened by add-ons payments to help cover these costs.  

And I wonder what the New York could do with our tax dollars if they weren't needed to support medical facilities across the state; maybe take less of them, for example? 

Think of the possibilities, if we could figure this one out.