Archive for hospitals

 

Safety-Net Hospitals Under the Gun

Safety-net hospitals across the country face a new challenge:  adjusting to several cuts in the supplemental payments they receive from the federal government to help them serve the low-income residents of the communities in which they are located.

First there is a $2 billion cut in Medicaid disproportionate share hospital payments (Medicaid DSH).  These are payments made to hospitals that serve especially large numbers of low-income patients.  These payments help safety-net hospitals with the unreimbursed expenses they incur caring for such patients.  This cut, mandated by the Affordable Care Act but twice delayed by Congress, took effect on January 1.  In many states the value of Medicaid DSH cuts will exceed the reductions in uninsured care that hospitals have experienced since the Affordable Care Act made health insurance more widely available.

Second there is a 28 percent cut in Medicare payments for prescription drugs dispensed through the section 340B prescription drug discount program.  This cut, too, took effect on January 1.

Finally, federal funding has lapsed for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and for community health centers.

Safety-net hospitals are considering a number of moves to offset these losses.  Among them:  reducing or eliminating services, laying off staff, discontinuing …

Medicaid Expansion Helps Save Hospitals

Hospitals in states that took advantage of the Affordable Care Act to expand their Medicaid programs are six times less likely to close than hospitals in non-expansion states.

And the impact of Medicaid expansion is even more beneficial for hospitals that serve rural communities.

These are among the new findings in a new study that examines the effect of Medicaid expansion on hospital finances and hospital closures.  Among those findings,

We found that the ACA’s Medicaid expansion was associated with improved hospital financial performance and substantially lower likelihoods of closure, especially in rural markets and counties with large numbers of uninsured adults before Medicaid expansion.

According to the study, these hospitals, as a result of Medicaid expansion, served fewer uninsured patients and provided less uncompensated care than they previously had, thereby improving their financial health.

For this reason, the study’s authors conclude that

Future congressional efforts to reform Medicaid policy should consider the strong relationship between Medicaid coverage levels and the financial viability of hospitals. Our results imply that reverting to pre-ACA eligibility levels would lead to particularly large increases in rural hospital closures. Such closures could lead to reduced access to care and a loss of highly skilled jobs,

MedPAC Meets

The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission met in Washington, D.C. last week.

Among the issues on the agenda of the independent agency that advises Congress on Medicare payment issues were:

  • payment adequacy for physicians and other health professional services
  • An alternative to the merit-based incentive payment system (MIPS)
  • payment adequacy for hospital inpatient and outpatient services
  • payment adequacy for ambulatory surgical center services
  • payment adequacy and improving the equity of payments for skilled nursing facility services
  • payment adequacy for inpatient rehabilitation services
  • payment adequacy for long-term-care hospital services
  • payment adequacy for home health services
  • payment adequacy for outpatient dialysis services
  • payment adequacy for hospice services
  • the status of the Medicare Advantage program

Find links to issue briefs on these subjects and the presentations offered at the meeting by going here, to the MedPAC web site.…

ED Myths Exposed

The uninsured do not use emergency rooms more than the insured.

And the expansion of health insurance coverage increases rather than decreases ER use.

So concludes the new Health Affairs study “The Uninsured Do Not Use the Emergency Department More – They Use Other Care Less.”  Find the study here.

 …

House Committee Looks at 340B

Are hospitals using the savings generated by their participation in the section 340B prescription drug discount program to help their low-income and uninsured patients?

That’s what the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Health Subcommittee is asking.

Earlier this year the committee requested such information from the Health Services and Resources Administration, which runs the 340B program, and now it’s asking hospitals as well.

Specifically, the subcommittee sent five-page letters to 19 providers that participate in the 340B program asking them about:

  • the quantity of 340B-purchased drugs they dispense to Medicare beneficiaries, Medicaid beneficiaries, and those with private insurance
  • the quantity of 340B-purchased drugs they dispense to uninsured patients
  • their savings from the 340B program and how they calculate those savings
  • how much charity care they provide
  • how they use 340B savings to serve vulnerable populations

The letters address many other 340B-related issues as well.

Learn more about the Health Subcommittee’s letter by reading this news release describing this initiative and go here to view a sample letter that the subcommittee sent to selected 340B providers.…