In its latest attack on the for-profit hospital industry, VHA, a not-for-profit hospital alliance, narrowed its target to just one company: Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp.
In previous reports comparing the two ownership sectors, Irving, Texas-based VHA typically included all for-profits in a particular state or market.
The new VHA report, to be released publicly by the alliance this week, examines the cost efficiency of Columbia hospitals in six Florida markets compared with that of the hospitals' not-for-profit competitors.
The report is based on 1994 financial data from the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration.
It was prepared for VHA by attorney John Parker with Parker, Hudson, Rainer and Dobbs in Atlanta, and the national healthcare consulting firm Jennings Ryan and Kolb. Parker recently released a report comparing hospitals' uncompensated-care costs in Georgia (May 5, p. 20).
"When Columbia offers to acquire and convert not-for-profit hospitals to for-profit, one of (the company's) principal claims is, because of their size, they can be more efficient by negotiating better, purchasing supplies and equipment," Parker said. "The study dismisses that notion."
The report compares 35 not-for-profit hospitals with 22 hospitals owned by Columbia. About one-third of the not-for-profits studied are VHA members.
When it comes to charges for ancillary services, including supplies, not-for-profit hospitals on an adjusted admission basis were 12% to 33% cheaper than Columbia facilities, according to the study.
In competitive Dade County, which includes Miami, Columbia's ancillary charges per adjusted admission were $8,527 while the not-for-profits' charges were $7,611.
Columbia's overall charges for inpatient care, which include charges for ancillary services, were 9% to 24% higher (See chart).
Columbia downplayed the study. "Measurements we feel are important come from patients," said Columbia spokesman Jeff Prescott. "Our patient satisfaction in Florida is 93% satisfied or very satisfied."