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Sep
22

The hospital shakeout

Is well underway.  Likely impacts include:

  • more hospitals shutting down their inpatient operations
  • a decline (!!) in hospital employment
  • even more aggressive land-grab efforts by rival health systems seeking highly profitable commercially insured patients (that’s you, dear reader)
  • doubling down on “revenue maximization” (that’s you, work comp payor)

(Kudos to the estimable Merrill Goozner for his cogent discussion of the issue)

What’s happening…

  • hospital admissions dropped precipitously last year – despite the major impact of COVID admissions. As I noted a while back, COVID patients aren’t very profitable; they rarely get surgeries or other procedures which generate big dollars for hospitals…
  • meanwhile expenses are climbing – driven mostly by labor costs (up $86 billion this year)
  • more than half of all hospitals are going to lose money…before COVID, the money-losing facilities amounted to only a third of the total.

Why this is happening…

  • states that didn’t expand Medicaid are getting hammered as the other safety net payment programs mostly stopped helping hospitals make up revenue shortfalls.
  • care has largely shifted to outpatient facilities which are way less costly – and generate way less revenue per admit – than inpatient stays
  • it’s really hard to find staff – many are way past burnout, driven by overwork and abusive patients.

What does this mean for you?

Facility costs will go up.

Quality likely won’t.


Joe Paduda is the principal of Health Strategy Associates

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A national consulting firm specializing in managed care for workers’ compensation, group health and auto, and health care cost containment. We serve insurers, employers and health care providers.

 

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