Iowa hospitals are providing significantly more “charity care” during this recession.

A survey by the Iowa Hospital Association found the state’s hospitals provided $850 million worth of “uncompensated care” last year, including unpaid medical bills. That’s an increase of about $54 million in “uncompensated care” from 2009 to 2010.

Scott McIntyre of the Iowa Hospital Association says the sagging economy played a role. 

“As we’ve seen unemployment go up, the uninsured numbers have gone up and the number of people seeking charity care or discounted care has increased,” McIntyre says. Rising health care costs also play a part in spurring the increase in uncompensated care, according to McIntyre. 

All 118 Iowa hospitals participated in the survey.  About 70,000 people are employed in those hospitals. McIntyre says hospitals have a $6.1 billion impact on the state’s economy.

“Iowa hospitals are holding up their obligation to provide community benefit and that includes not only what people think of as charity care and that kind of thing,” McIntyre says. “It also includes responding to the needs of their community with special programs and special services that frankly nobody else could provide.”

The association’s survey concludes the state’s 118 hospitals provided $1.3 billion in “community benefits” in 2010, including charity care as well as free services like health screenings, nutrition counseling and immunizations.