The Effect of Minimum Nurse Staffing Legislation on Uncompensated Care Provided by California Hospitals


Kristin Reiter, David Harless, George Pink, Joanne Spetz, Barbara Mark

June 1, 2011

This study assesses whether California’s minimum nurse staffing legislation affected the amount of uncompensated care provided by California hospitals. Using data from California’s Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development, the American Hospital Association Annual Survey and InterStudy, we divide hospitals into quartiles based on pre-regulation staffing levels. Controlling for other factors, we estimate changes in the growth rate of uncompensated care in the three lowest staffing quartiles relative to the quartile of hospitals with the highest staffing level. Our sample includes short-term general hospitals over the period 1999 to 2006. We find that growth rates in uncompensated care are lower in the first three staffing quartiles as compared to the highest quartile; however, results are statistically significant only for county and for-profit hospitals in quartiles one and three. We conclude that minimum nurse staffing ratios may lead some hospitals to limit uncompensated care, likely due to increased financial pressure