Tax-exempt healthcare bond volume slipped 20% in the third quarter of 1995, according to Securities Data Co., a Newark, N.J.-based financial information service. A total of $2.1 billion of healthcare bonds, representing 70 new issues, was sold during the three months ended Sept. 30. In the year-ago period, 77 tax-exempt healthcare issues with principal amounts totaling $2.6 billion were offered. As managing underwriter, Smith Barney booked a majority of the new third-quarter healthcare volume; Chapman & Cutler led the field among healthcare bond counsels during the quarter, Securities Data reported.
The Federal Trade Commission made final two proposed consent agreements last week that settle charges that one big and one little hospital merger would violate federal antitrust law. The first settles Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp.'s $5.6 billion merger with Healthtrust. As in the proposed agreement, the final decree allows the deal to go through but requires Columbia to divest seven hospitals (April 24, p. 4). The second agreement blocks the proposed consolidation of three Michigan hospitals under one parent corporation. The facilities are Port Huron (Mich.) Hospital, Mercy Hospital in Port Huron and River District Hospital in East China, Mich. (July 10, p. 2).
R.T. Jones Regional Hospital in Canton, Ga., has signed an agreement to form a joint venture with Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. However, 84-bed R.T. Jones wants to retain its not-for-profit status. Final approval of the deal could take six months, said a spokesman for R.T. Jones, which had been part of Promina Health System, Atlanta. Hospital officials dropped Promina earlier this year after a consultant's report suggested the hospital should be converted to an outpatient facility.
Coram Healthcare Corp., a Denver-based provider of home health services, received a 30-day waiver from creditors to postpone a $10 million loan payment that was due Sept. 30. In addition, a $150 million bridge loan it secured to finance its purchase of Caremark International's home-infusion unit began to accrue additional fees on Oct. 5. Coram is grappling with lenders to renegotiate $450 million in debt. It will run out of working capital if it is not able to increase its cash flow by the middle of this month, the company disclosed in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
If Pennsylvania hospitals would have matched HHS' national objective for reducing the percentage of newborns delivered by Caesarean section to 15%, 10,700 fewer C-sections would have been performed in 1993, reducing hospital charges by an estimated $35 million, according to data released last week. The data were compiled by the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council. The two state agencies teamed up to publish a consumer brochure on C-section rates at Pennsylvania hospitals in nine regions across the state, and a booklet with additional information for healthcare purchasers, policymakers and providers. The data reflect 1993 C-section rates reported by 153 Pennsylvania hospitals. Overall, the rate of C-section deliveries in the state fell to 21.7% of total deliveries in 1993, the last year for which data were available, from 22.2% in 1992. Despite the reduction, Pennsylvania's C-section rate still exceeds HHS' national target rate of 15% by the year 2000. Pennsylvania hospitals charge an average of $6,800 for a C-section and $3,500 for a vaginal delivery. At 19%, Medicaid recipients have the lowest C-section rate; Blue Cross subscribers had the highest rate, 23.8%.
Minnesota has become the first state to publish a standardized consumer survey comparing health plans. The survey, which interviewed 17,500 Minnesotans, was prepared by the Minnesota Health Data Institute and covers 46 health plans, including private plans, Medicare and state programs. It is the first project of the not-for-profit institute, which was created by the Minnesota Legislature in 1993 to improve healthcare. Among the overall findings, 75% of HMO enrollees are satisfied with their plans, compared with 71% of indemnity plan enrollees. Medicare recipients in HMOs are 87% satisfied, compared with 83% in Medicare supplements and 77% in fee-for-service Medicare.