Sunbeam Times Truth Check: Tampa Bay Times Wrong on Bayfront Medical Center Charity Care. Bayfront Medical Center one of Most Charitable Hospitals in Pinellas County. First in a Series.

Tampa Bay Times has falsely claimed that Bayfront provides a lower amount of "indigent care" than in the past. In fact, they continue to provide the most in Pinellas County.

Tampa Bay Times has falsely claimed that Bayfront Medical Center provides a lower amount of “indigent care” than in the past. In fact, they continue to provide the most in Pinellas County.

Tampa Bay Times Claim: “Indigent care as a percentage of the hospital’s business dipped from 5.1 percent to 3.2 percent, according to an analysis by Gov. Rick Scott’s Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding.”

Sunbeam Times Truth Check Result: False and categorized as “Under a Rock”.

The Tampa Bay Times reported on Sunday May 1, that the Bayfront Medical Center had rising profits and falling charity care since its acquisition by Community Health Services. Bayfront Medical Center had been bleeding money under the leadership of prior CEO Sue Brody and her “Vice President of Strategic Planning” Kanika Tomalin (now Vice Mayor of St. Petersburg). Bayfront had posted $12 million in losses before finally being sold to HMA in 2012 which sold it the following year to CHS. The liberal media and the local liberal political establishment were railing against the purchase by a “for profit” company, claiming that it would hurt charity care. In an apparent attempt to ensure that the liberal narrative could continue, the Tampa Bay Times had to strain to find a way to claim that the new owners were cutting charity care. When it comes to Liberal media, the narrative always wins over facts and true journalism. Accordingly, the Tampa Bay Times grabbed onto a completely unreliable indicator for “Charity care” and ran with a biased, poorly investigated story that ignored reality.

The fact is that Bayfront Medical Center is providing the most indigent care of all hospitals in Pinellas County. Any person spending even more than a few minutes analyzing the data would understand that Bayfront Medical Center provides an immense amount of charity care to patients in Pinellas County. It takes a willful ignorance to conclude otherwise.

Tampa Bay Times Reporter Kathleen McGrory provided a very superficial analysis, even though she filled columns of space with fluff. In the end her analysis boiled down to one number when it came to charity care: 3.2%. That is what allowed the Times to print the very large, above the fold headline “Profits Rise…Charity Falls”. Her analysis ignored easily obtained and valid measures of charity care as well as the track record of nearby hospitals. The Times narrative generator also seemed to complain about rising profits at the hospital, without analyzing the profits of neighboring hospitals. Kathleen McGrory did not respond for requests to comment on her analysis and story.

Ms. McGrory also mislabeled the 3.2% number as “indigent care” rather than look at what the state itself classified as “indigent” care which is the percent of hospital activity dedicated to Medicaid, Medicaid HMO and Charity care combined. The facts show that when it comes to actual Indigent Care, Bayfront Medical Center remains in the lead, surpassing all hospitals in Pinellas. Here is the inaccurate and biased conclusion the Times editors allowed to be printed:

“Indigent care as a percentage of the hospital’s business dipped from 5.1 percent to 3.2 percent, according to an analysis by Gov. Rick Scott’s Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding. The latter figure is lower than the average for hospitals across the region (4.2 percent) and less than half of the 7 percent reported by nearby St. Anthony’s Hospital, a member of the not-for-profit BayCare network.”

BMC gives more in indigent care than ANY adult hospital in Pinellas

Since 2010, Bayfront Medical center has provided the most care to indigent patients of any adult hospital in Pinellas County. This is despite its “for-profit” status. Bayfront Medical Center outpaced St. Anthony’s Hospital every year for the last five years, including since the purchase of Bayfront in 2012. The “indigent care” number is based on the state’s definition of percent of patient revenue that is derived from Medicaid and charity combined. Medicaid is a government funded insurance program for low income persons and generally pays well below market rates for care. Doctors receive about 56% of already low Medicare rates for care they provide to Medicaid, while hospitals receive a government subsidy in addition to Medicaid called “LIP” or Low Income Pool funds. (The amount of “Indigent Care” provided by All Children’s Hospital was not reported by the Governor’s Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding. However a separate analysis by the Sunbeam Times confirmed the well-known fact that All Children’s receives a large percentage of its revenues caring for Medicaid patients.)

In 2014, Bayfront remained the leader for its tenth year in a row for adult hospitals providing indigent care measuring 25.3% of its revenues. St. Anthony’s was third at 20.5% with St. Petersburg General Hospital (also for profit) at 21.4%.  The accompanying table and graph show the percentage of indigent care provided at these local adult hospitals (Edward White Hospital data is missing in 2014 since it was closed by that time).indigent care graph bmc

indigent care table bayfront


The data analyzed here by the Sunbeam Times was easily and readily available to the Tampa Bay Times and its reporter Kathleen McGrory (from the Governor’s Commission on Health Care and Hospital Funding). Yet they ignored the facts and instead made the false claim that “indigent care” was at only 3.2% when in fact it was at 25.3% and outpaced all other hospitals in Pinellas county. The Sunbeam Times thus rates the Tampa Bay Times false claim on “Indigent Care” by Bayfront Medical Center as “Under a Rock.
Tomorrow: Properly measuring charity. Bayfront provides more Free Care than other Downtown St. Pete Hospitals.

Dr. David McKalip, author of this piece and editor/founder of the Sunbeam Times, is a private practice neurological surgeon on the medical staff of Bayfront Medical Center since 2000. He previously served on its Medical Executive Committee. He has performed this analysis independently with publicly available data and receives no compensation from Bayfront Medical Center.