Hospital prices add to financial woes of uninsured Americans.
Bloomberg News (3/11) reports, "Hospitals' fast-rising sticker prices are adding to the financial burdens of the 49 million Americans without insurance, more than 20 million of whom won't be covered under President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act." In fact, "so-called full charges at hospitals grew an average 10 percent a year between 2000 and 2010, according to Gerard Anderson, a Johns Hopkins University professor who analyzed hospital financial reports. The charges went up at four times the pace of inflation, and faster than hospital costs, which Anderson said increased an average six percent a year."
Massachusetts to investigate hospital "facility fees."
In a front-page story, the Boston Globe (3/11, A1, Kowalczyk, 250K) reports, "Patients, angered by surprise surcharges that hospitals tack on bills for doctor visits, are increasingly challenging these fees - sometimes even refusing to pay." In Massachusetts, "the Health Policy Commission, a newly created agency that monitors health care costs, decided to examine these so-called 'facility fees' after the Globe published a story in January about a patient charged $1,525 in operating room and facility fees for a minor skin procedure. And a spokesman for Attorney General Martha Coakley said last week her office is reviewing the practice after receiving complaints from consumers."
AMA reminds physicians that patient welfare must always come first.
The New York Times (12/27, Pear, Subscription Publication) reports, "With hospitals buying up medical practices around the country and seeking to make the most of their investment, the American Medical Association reached out to doctors this week to remind them that patient welfare must always come first and not be overridden by the economic interests of hospitals that now employ doctors in ever-growing numbers." According to an AMA policy statement, "In any situation where the economic or other interests of the employer are in conflict with patient welfare, patient welfare must take priority." AMA President-Elect Dr. Ardis Dee Hoven said, "We never want patients to worry or wonder if a decision is being made in their best interest."