January 15, 2006 News





Hospitals are closing at a time when the baby boomers are just beginning to turn sixty.  In Hoboken, New Jersey, St. Mary's Hospital has announced it will close in six months.  The 328 bed facility was recently told they were on the for sale block by the owners, Bon Secours, a private Catholic health system.

In East Falls, Pennsylvania, the Medical College of Pennsylvania is to be sold and made into a morgue or some other non medical building.  This was the first hospital in the country for women.  The hospital was sold for $1 in 2004 to WMCH Inc.  The hospital closed in March, 2005 due to lack of money.  The property is now being sold off.  I wonder how much of this is due to the lack of enough payments by the strong state HMOs. 

In Brownsville, Pennsylvania, Tara Hospital abruptly shut its doors.  They voluntarily surrendered their license.  The hospital had financial problems with labor threatening a strike and Medicare.  This was a for profit hospital owned by physicians.  The hospital hopes to apply for a new license and re-open the hospital.    

In a recent study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine of incident reports in 25 acute care hospitals, there was a median of 35 reports per 1000 patient days with the outsides being 9 and 95.  The most reports were by nurses at 47%.  Interestingly, physicians only wrote 1.4% of the reports. Of the 95,000 incidents reported 57% caused no patient harm, 32% temporary harm, 0.8% permanent harm and 0.4% caused death.        Top


In one of the most interesting ways I have heard of to get the public to accept the cheap generics, Blue Cross in Rhode Island is putting generic pharmaceutical machines in physician offices.  The machine gives out free 30 day supplies of generics.  This allows patients to try them to make sure they work as well as the high price spread and have no side effects.  This takes away the advantage named drugs have when their salespeople drop off samples in the physician offices.  The machine is supplied by a San Diego company and has machines in six other states.  Blue Cross pays the company an administrative fee plus the drugs that are given to its clients.  The company covers the cost for the drugs that are given to patients other than Blue Cross.        Top  


If physicians stick together, they have the power to increase payments.  This has again been shown in Rhode Island where the ED physicians at Miriam Hospital threatened to leave the Blue Cross network.  They now do not have to since there was an agreement for Blue Cross to cover the physician services and ED care.   

In two stories that came out one day apart the physicians are taking more and less Medicare patients.  The first story by AP stated that over the past four years physicians taking new Medicare patients have increased.  This story came out to influence the House to turn down the rescission of the physician cut in payment as the Senate did. The AP article went on to state that the reason for taking more patients is to get the ancillary fees.

In the San Diego paper, there is a story of physician who have stopped taking new Medicare patients due to the recent reduction in fees that hopefully re reversed when Congress reconvenes.  At the same time there was an additional 5% reduction in fees for seeing Medicaid patients in California.  The AMA predicts that for the next five years expenses will rise 15% and reimbursement will fall 26%.  In California the physicians are also paid 30% less than the rest of the country by private HMOs.  I know that my old group has last week no longer is in the IPA that wanted to cut its rates by 4%.  This took six of the seven urologists in the area away from seeing the patients.  There has been a like exodus with the local GI physicians.  When the patients find out there will be a mass move out of the IPA.         Top


DISCLAIMER: Although this article is updated periodically, it reflects the author's point of view at the time of publication. Nothing in this article constitutes legal advice. Readers should consult with their own legal counsel before acting on any of the information presented.