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Please Define Excessive!


Will Farnham

Recently I have seen article in the news and statements from officials in the current administration that have labeled hospital inpatient charges as excessive. These same individuals have chosen to ignore the recommendations MedPAC which has recommended an adjustment in payments of between 0 and 2.6%.

In many of the same publications that I see this characterization of hospital inpatient rates being excessive I read about the hospital in Boston that has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Additionally, there are stories of the continuing soap opera surrounding the Allegheny Health, Education and research Foundationís bankruptcy auction, stories of employee layoffs throughout the country and reports that systems are breaking up because they cannot maintain the level of service promised when they merged. The latest wrinkle is the reports of hospitals and health systems having their bond ratings downgraded by the investor services. Does this sound as if hospitals were making excessive profits?

I would hope that congress would look very closely at healthcare in this country. While it is true that some hospitals and health systems are maintaining a level of profitability that is sufficient to remain viable, there are many that are marginal to unprofitable and our government is going to force them into closing.

The regulators are studying mergers with a jaundiced eye. They are afraid, so it is reported, that mergers are designed to gouge the public. As a result more and more hospitals are closing or significantly reducing services. It appears to me that the phenomena that the regulators are trying to avoid is in fact happening because of the overzealous regulating. They are creating monopolies by denying mergers as fast as monopolies are being created by approving mergers.

I repeat, PLEASE DEFINE EXCESSIVE. Could it be that the major excesses in healthcare are the regulators. Hospitals must make sufficient profits to pay an adequate number of employees to care for patients, maintain the quality standards demanded by the accreditation and regulating bodies, and procure the modern technology we, as consumers, demand. We need a national healthcare policy which will allow quality treatment and a price that is fair and reasonable not a policy, which we now have, that assumes that all of us in healthcare are out to gouge the public, the insurers, and the government.


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