Hospitals' aggregate profit margins dipped slightly during the first quarter, according to the American Hospital Association's quarterly economic report released last week. The report is based on a monthly survey of about 2,000 hospitals. The AHA said hospitals' total profit margins slid to 6.3% during the first three months of the year, compared with 6.8% during the same period last year. Hospitals' operating margins, meanwhile, dipped to 1.4% during the first quarter, compared with 2.3% during the first quarter of 1993.
It may seem hard to believe, but the number of healthcare reform stories in newspapers, magazines and on television actually declined during the first five months of this year, compared with a three-month period last fall, according to the third installment of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation's ongoing study of healthcare reform and the media. The study is being conducted on behalf of the foundation by the Washington-based Times Mirror Center for the People and the Press and the Columbia Journalism Review. The media outlets carried 1,529 healthcare reform stories from January through May, compared with 1,923 stories from September through November last year, the report said.
Dennis O'Leary, M.D., president of the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, has scheduled an Oct. 5 meeting with hospital executives in Ohio. The meeting, which was arranged by the Ohio Hospital Association, will be the latest in a series of personal visits Dr. O'Leary is paying to hospital executives who have expressed concerns about the JCAHO's accreditation services, public disclosure policies and clinical indicator monitoring system. State hospital associations in Arkansas, Louisiana, New York and Tennessee have convened similar meetings for their hospital members over the past several months (Aug. 8, p. 25).
A joint venture's final agreement to purchase 109-bed Symmes Hospital in Arlington, Mass., includes a provision for acute-care services after all. When the acquisition was announced in February, plans were to convert Symmes into a facility for outpatient primary and rehabilitation care, emergency services, ambulatory and short-term surgery and inpatient subacute rehabilitation. Those uses are part of the new plans for the hospital, which will staff 72 beds under the partnership of the Lahey Clinic, a Burlington, Mass.-based multispecialty group practice, and AdvantageHealth, a Woburn, Mass.-based network of rehabilitation facilities. But about half the beds will continue to be used for acute-care admissions, a Lahey spokesman said. The venture, called The Medical Center at Symmes, also will offer cancer treatment.
OrNda HealthCorp, the nation's fifth-largest investor-owned hospital chain, has begun the planned public offering of $125 million in subordinated bonds to repay existing debt and finance acquisitions. The Nashville, Tenn.-based chain of 46 hospitals said the notes carry an 11.375% interest rate and are due in 2004. OrNda will use the proceeds to reduce debt under its revolving credit agreement, repurchase previously issued 10.25% notes and finance acquisitions.
A California appellate court has ruled that Medicaid officials have the authority to ask applicants whether they are in California legally. Immigration advocates are not sure whether the decision will have a chilling effect on illegals seeking care. In California, illegal immigrants may apply for a restricted card for Medi-Cal, the state's Medicaid program, and receive prenatal care and kidney dialysis as well as emergency care. A spokeswoman for the state Health and Welfare Agency said officials don't believe the decision will have a major impact on providers. But Lilly Spitz, assistant general counsel for the California Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, said illegal immigrants "will access our hospitals sicker because of their fear of going to apply" for Medi-Cal. The decision also would create an added financial burden for hospitals if illegal immigrants seek care without Medi-Cal coverage, she said.