An annual survey from the American Hospital Association reveals that U.S. community hospitals posted $45.9 billion in uncompensated care in 2012, representing 6.1 percent of total hospital expenses.

The survey included 5,000 hospitals. Uncompensated care is defined as the combination of a hospital's bad debt and charity care, but it excludes Medicare and Medicaid underpayment costs.

Bad debt includes services for which hospitals expected to receive payment but did not, whereas as charity care is free care for which hospitals did not expect to receive payment.

The $45.9 billion was an 11.7 percent jump from 2011, when hospitals recorded $41.1 billion in uncompensated care.

Uncompensated care costs to hospitals typically has represented between 5 and 6 percent of expenses since 1980, when the American Hospital Association first started tracking the data.

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