Jan 14, 2020

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.

What they're saying: "The number one cause of personal bankruptcy is our industry," Intermountain Healthcare CEO Marc Harrison, who is recovering from cancer treatment, said in one of the conference's opening sessions. "We have an absolute responsibility to make health care as affordable as possible."

  • Intermountain CFO Bert Zimmerli said his system has taken a $100 million hit to its bottom line by lowering costs over the past two years — a fraction of Intermountain's $9 billion of annual revenue.
  • He then touted the system's above-average 6% operating margin and explained that its collections from patients "have really been strong."
  • Bon Secours Mercy Health CEO John Starcher, who helped complete the system's merger and has acquired other community hospitals, said BSMH will continue to look at other deals because "growth is necessary" — even though all reputable evidence suggests hospital mergers raise prices and don't improve care.

The big picture: Health care's high prices, especially for hospital services, eat away at everyone's paychecks and cause large out-of-pocket burdens. But health systems mostly haven't made a dent in changing those affordability concerns.

Go deeper: A reality check on hospital beds.

Go deeper

Private insurance is health care's pot of gold

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Private health insurance is a conduit for exploding health care spending, and there's no end in sight.

The big picture: Most politicians defend this status quo, even though prices are soaring. And as the industry's top executives and lobbyists gathered this week in San Francisco, some nodded to concerns over affordability — but then went on to tell investors how they plan to keep the money flowing.

Go deeperArrowJan 17, 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

Military hospitals are aggressively going after medical debt

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Add the U.S. government to the list of groups going after patients for thousands of dollars in medical debt, per reporting by The Center for Public Integrity and The Atlantic.

How it works: Civilians can receive care at military hospitals in an emergency or if the military hospital offers superior care.

Go deeperArrowJan 22, 2020