Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Melinda Goldner




hospital care, medical bills, poverty, compensation, health system, health policy


Uncompensated hospital care presents a significant problem in the United States health care system, and it is most prevalent in non-profit, “safety-net” hospitals, which make up the 10% of hospitals that provide the most uncompensated care. The incidence of uncompensated medical care stems from the inherent relationship between poverty and health in that poorer people (who tend to experience a lower health status) receive care from hospitals and are unable to pay for it, which results in these hospitals providing this care for a fraction of the charge or even free of charge. This study looks at the specific impact that uncompensated medical care has on hospitals, specifically these safety-net hospitals that provide the most uncompensated care. This study first looks into the existing literature to explain the incidence of poverty in America and the correlation it has with health status. It then looks into the policies currently in place that force hospitals to provide medical care without adequate compensation. The portion of original research looks at the views of two employees at a large safety net health system in the eastern United States; one works in the financial services department and the other works in the budget-planning department. With their insight, the remainder of the study involves a discussion of the specific effects of uncompensated care along with the accompanying policy implications.