Jan 13, 2020

Hospitals' dueling financial realities

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

As hospital prices rise and much of the sector continues to rake in cash, rural hospitals continue to shutter.

Why it matters: There's no way to address U.S. health care spending without cutting hospital costs. But blanket cuts could hurt hospitals that are already struggling to keep their doors open, leaving vulnerable patients without access to care.

Driving the news: At least 30 hospitals entered bankruptcy in 2019, Bloomberg reported last week.

  • Rural hospitals' hardships have been well-documented: They serve a shrinking population that has high health needs and is disproportionately uninsured or covered by government insurance.
  • The shutdown of an urban hospital in Philadelphia is evidence that it's not just rural areas that are facing hospital closures.

Yes, but: Some hospital systems are reaping in hefty profits.

  • In an analysis of 48 not-for-profit hospital systems, my colleague Bob Herman last year found that their net profit margin was 8.6%.
  • Bob has also reported that "not-for-profit hospital systems increasingly operate more like corporate titans on the stock exchanges than the charities they promote themselves to be."
  • Private insurers pay hospitals, on average, 241% of what Medicare pays for the same services, and hospitals are by far the largest contributor to U.S. health spending.

Go deeper: How "Medicare for All" would affect hospitals

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Hospitals say they want affordable care, but actions aren't clear

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Hospitals acknowledged to investors at this year's J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference that their industry is contributing to patients' financial turmoil.

Yes, but: Hospitals reassured those same investors that they were focused on growing their revenue, with no real details about how that would save patients money.

Go deeperArrowJan 14, 2020

Big Tech's enormous access to patients' health data

It's not just Google — Amazon, IBM and Microsoft have also struck deals with hospitals across the country to gain access to patient data, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Why it matters: It reveals just how expansive the relationship between tech companies and hospitals has become — and lawmakers have taken notice.

Go deeperArrowJan 21, 2020

A new effort to cut hospital costs

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A billionaire with an interest in health care, state legislatures and a well-respected policy shop are all aligning in 2020 to take on hospital costs.

Driving the news: Modern Healthcare reports that the National Association for State Health Policy will be coming up with model legislation in 2020 to help states rein in hospital spending, in addition to work on drug costs.

Go deeperArrowJan 15, 2020