Kentucky hospitals provided community benefit programs and services valued at more than $1.96 billion in 2011, according to a new report by the Kentucky Hospital Association. That's up from $1.67 billion in 2010 and 85% more than in 2008. The total includes $451 million in financial assistance/charity care, which has more than doubled in two years; and other costs such as community health improvement services, health professions education, research, bad debt (health care services for which a hospital expected but did not receive payment), and the unpaid costs of Medicaid and Medicare. The report highlights how hospitals routinely go beyond their core mission to meet other community needs while contributing to the economic strength of their communities. "Kentucky's 131 hospitals continue to provide an important medical safety net for health services and programs at a time when economic turmoil and reform of our country's health care system are affecting all aspects of our society," said KHA President Michael Rust.