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As a percentage of total expenses, uncompensated care for United States hospitals continues to flirt around 6 percent.

In 2011, the most recent data in the American Hospital Association’s annual survey, providers reported uncompensated care of more than $41 billion, equal to 5.9 percent of total expenses.

Uncompensated care equals charity care (“financial assistance” in IRS parlance) plus bad debt.

For much of the 2000s, uncompensated care for the approximately 5,000 hospitals that participated in the AHA survey has floated between 5.4 percent and 6.2 percent of total expenditures. In that time reporting hospitals spent more than one-third of a trillion dollars on uncompensated care.

Since the AHA began tracking uncompensated care in 1980, the figure has consistently floated between 5 and 6 percent of total revenue, averaging 5.8 percent during that period. While it has occasionally risen above 6 percent, it has never fallen below 5 percent.