The nonprofit Wyoming Medical Center Inc., budget for uncompensated care is coming in about $7 million less than expected so far this fiscal year, its CEO Michele Chulick said Tuesday.

According to its budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, the nonprofit hospital anticipated it would have written off $40.9 million through through January for uncompensated care -- the total of its legally obligated charity care for those who cannot pay, and bad debt when patients refuse to pay.

But as of January, the last month for which figures are available, that number came in at $33.4 million, Chulick said at the monthly meeting of the board of trustees of the Memorial Hospital of Natrona County, which oversees the WMC's lease of the county-owned property.

Of the $33.4 million, $9.3 million was what the hospital has written off for charity care in its budget.

The hospital has written off the remaining $24.1 million for bad debt, which was about the same as the targeted amount in the budget.

In January alone, the total uncompensated care amounted to $6.6 million, with $2.7 million of that being for charity care. That month, 249 people applied for charity care.

The bad debt problem, like what the hospital has dealt with for much of the past year, was more, with it writing off $4.12 million incurred by 837 people who didn't pay. Paying patients cover these losses.

Chulick attributed the high bad debt to changes in many people's insurance policies that increase deductibles.

Some patients may not qualify for charity care, but also don't want to pay the higher deductible, which then is written off as bad debt, she said.

The total $6.6 million for January was the largest amount of uncompensated care for any month in the past year. It also was 11.6 percent of the hospital's gross revenues, the highest percentage of any month since January 2018.

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The nonprofit Wyoming Medical Center Inc., was formed in 1986.

Until then, it was known as the Memorial Hospital of Natrona County, which was owned and operated by Natrona County. After the creation of the WMC, the county continued to own the physical plant of the hospital, which is mostly in the 1200 blocks of East Second and Third streets. The WMC leases the property from the county to perform health care. The WMC's rent, in effect, is to maintain the value of the physical plant and provide care for the indigent.

A five-member board of trustees -- called the Memorial Hospital of Natrona County -- oversees the WMC's lease of the county's property.