The year of record profits for hospitals also saw a record low for hospital closings.
The American Hospital Association said last week that the number of hospitals that stopped providing acute-care services plunged to just 17 in 1994 from 34 in 1993. It was the sixth consecutive year that the number of acute-care closings dropped since 1988, when 85 were shut down.
The AHA released the 1994 closure data nearly a year after AHA executives said they decided to discontinue the association's longstanding annual hospital closure report, saying it had outlived its usefulness (June 5, 1995, p. 2).
The decision came at a time when the AHA normally would have calculated and released the latest closure statistics, which would have been for calendar 1994. The AHA historically released closure data during the first quarter of the following year.
The decision to discontinue the report also came at a time when the AHA was telling Washington lawmakers that proposed cuts in budgeted fiscal 1996 Medicare and Medicaid spending would force some hospitals to close.
At the time, AHA executives said, the decision to discontinue the report had nothing to do with the association's lobbying tactics on Capitol Hill.
In the late 1980s, the AHA stopped linking Medicare and Medicaid spending to closures after it was revealed that some of the AHA's data were inaccurate and the number of annual closing began to plummet. The AHA re-established the link last spring.
The AHA never released another annual closure report, but it published the 1994 closure data in a small chart last week on the sixth page of its eight-page weekly newspaper.
Richard Wade, the AHA's senior vice president for communications, said the 1994 data were available last spring, but the association didn't release them publicly because the formal closure report was discontinued. He emphasized that the decision not to release the information wasn't tied in any way to any association lobbying strategy.
"Even if we had, it wouldn't have hurt us at all because it shows that hospitals continue to close," he said.
According to the chart, 17 hospitals stopped providing acute-care services in 1994. Also, 23 specialty hospitals shut their doors, the AHA reported.
The chart did not indicate if any of the facilities continued to provide some form of ancillary services or reveal how many acute-care and specialty hospitals opened in 1994.