An executive with the Iowa Hospital Association briefed state lawmakers Thursday on the rates of patients seeking charity care, as well as how many end up with bad debts to medical centers.

I-H-A senior vice-president Greg Boatenhammer says over the last five years, those unable to pay for their treatment has more than doubled. He speculates that the recession played a role in a 22% increase in 2008 in patients unable to pay for their care:

"An ongoing increase in 2008 is, in part, a reflection of that," Boatenhammer said. "But, we’ve had this growth trend over three to five years. It’s not just about the economic downturn…it’s also about the ability of employees to provide coverage for their workers."

A Senate panel is considering a bill to mandate lower charges for uninsured patients. Boatenhammer says more patients are asking for help at the beginning of their hospital stay, which makes them eligible for charity care, rather than ending up with bad debt after their stay. He says as a result, bad debt to hospitals has increased at a slower pace.