The news pace in healthcare remains fast and furious. There's so much happening that it's easy to gloss over the dozens of stories appearing in MODERN HEALTHCARE each week. But some deserve further review. Following is our assessment of a few recent events:
Thumbs up to a group of health researchers determined to study the impact of hospital mergers on costs, efficiencies and outcomes. As Jay Greene reports in this week's cover story, there are nagging questions about whether patients and payers actually realize promised cost savings when hospitals merge. Stuart Altman, the respected Brandeis University health economist, notes that policymakers haven't given enough attention to the major restructuring of the healthcare system. His Council on the Economic Impact of Health Care Reform, which is supported by a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant, promises a closer look at the post-merger behavior of hospitals.
Thumbs up to a Department of Veterans Affairs task force that is considering a plan to reorganize 171 VA hospitals into 27 community-based networks. By consolidating resources and having administrators become accountable to a network board of directors, the VA facilities have an opportunity to improve patient services.
Thumbs up to hospitals, physicians and health agencies in Bucks County, Pa., for documenting specific community healthcare needs. All across America, providers are discussing the need to become more accountable for the treatment outcomes of their patients. This voluntary effort, which will include schools, employers and churches, outlines priorities and sets tangible goals.
Thumbs down to the Cook County (Ill.) Board, which continues to press for construction of a $570 million replacement for Cook County Hospital. Although most Chicago-area providers support the project, we remain skeptical of the cost, the fees and the debt required to build a hospital in a city that has a 68% occupancy rate.
Thumbs down to the state of New Jersey, which stunned hospitals by proposing a 20% reduction in Medicaid payments. The cut would cost hospitals $135 million in annual revenues. While the Medicaid system needs repair, New Jersey officials should work with providers to devise managed-care programs for recipients before unilaterally slashing payments. The New Jersey solution begs for a judicial challenge.