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Maryland hospitals spend $1.6 billion on community services

State hospitals provide services beyond the operating and emergency room

Maryland's hospitals in the past year provided nearly $1.6 billion in services other than the medical care traditionally offered in emergency rooms, operating rooms, or hospital beds, according to the Maryland Hospital Association.

The hospital association said its members spent 10 percent of their operating expenses on non-traditional services, or community benefits, such as chronic disease management programs, free health education and other public health programs.

A portion of the spending also went to providing charitable health care for the poor. But spending on charitable care fell by about $56 million this year to $428 million, something the hospital association attributed to more people having insurance because of the Affordable Care Act. This enabled the hospitals to spend more money on other community benefits.

The data cited by the hospital association came from the Health Services Cost Review Commission, which sets the state's hospital rates.

Hospitals spent about $1.5 billion on community benefits the previous year.

"These contributions are at the essence of what hospitals mean to the communities they serve, and hospitals are redefining 'community benefits' in real time," Carmela Coyle, President & CEO of the Maryland Hospital Association, said in a statement. "With an emphasis on proactive, community-based care, you're seeing greater investments in screenings, chronic disease management, mobile clinics, and other mission-driven, innovative programs – all designed to help people stay healthy before they need hospital care."

amcdaniels@baltsun.com

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