LAS VEGAS -- Government agencies are losing millions in taxpayer money every year. The I-Team poured over hundreds of pages of reports revealing the most glaring examples of waste.
University Medical Center is well known as the Clark County's safety net hospital; it has huge taxpayer-subsidized deficits. But what isn't well known is how much money literally walks out the door.
Medical care is expensive and when people with no insurance go to UMC, taxpayers foot the bill. The math is painful. In just the first half of 2011, more than 7,000 uninsured patients ended up in UMC's emergency room multiple times. Those patients racked up a bill of $19 million. The hospital collected a measly $17,000. That's two-tenths of one percent of what the hospital was owed.
"What is lacking in UMC, and a lot of hospitals like us, is really a mechanism where you really assess, what point is enough care, enough care?" UMC CEO Brian Brannman said.
When UMC was investigated by the county auditor, the hospital pharmacy was targeted. So many people were walking out with free drugs, nobody appeared to notice there was no sign at the pharmacy requesting patients pay up.
"Do you not fill a prescription for an antibiotic for a person you know has an infection so you can make sure they're going to get more gravely ill and eventually end up being admitted, or do you give the prescription to them?" Brannman said.
Nevada Policy Research Institute's Geoffrey Lawrence reviewed the same reports.
"When you talk about people leaving without paying for their services or their prescriptions or anything like that, you're not just talking about poor people who are trying to get service because those people can enroll in Medicaid, and UMC can get reimbursed from the Medicaid program for those people," he said. "But UMC hasn't even made the effort to do that."
Now, UMC has a discharge desk and there is a sign at the pharmacy which asks patients to arrange a payment plan before leaving.
The I-Team added up outpatient, emergency room and prescription costs that "walked out the door" last year. It added up to more than $22 million.
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