The bad news keeps rolling in. At least three more state hospital associations have released gloom-and-doom reports about their members' finances.
Associations in Florida, Maryland and Michigan are the latest to add their voices to the hospital lobby chorus calling for more Medicare and Medicaid payment relief.
It's part of a growing grass-roots campaign that has national and state hospital associations, as well as money-losing hospitals and healthcare systems, working to spread the word about ailing finances (March 27, p. 4).
MHA: The Association of Maryland Hospitals and Health Systems, which regularly releases financial data, issued a report last week that said nearly half of Maryland's 54 hospitals lost money last year.
In 1999, 24 of the state's hospitals reported operating losses totaling almost $80 million, compared with 12 hospitals losing a total of $32 million on operations in 1998. Overall, the MHA said 16 hospitals posted net losses totaling $45 million in 1999, compared with eight hospitals losing $29 million in 1998.
The data from the MHA help the public, as well as state legislators, keep "a handle on how financially hospitals are doing," said Nancy Fiedler, the MHA's spokeswoman.
"The current data are absolutely critical to be able to paint an accurate picture" of hospitals' financial health, she said.
The Michigan Health and Hospital Association last week released two reports it commissioned detailing "the dire consequences of government underfunding of the Medicaid and Medicare programs."
The association estimates 10,000 hospital jobs have been eliminated in Michigan in the past 18 months mostly because of government underfunding.
One of the studies done for the state association examined the effect of the hospital sector on Michigan's economy, while a second study looked at a representative sampling of Michigan's 147 not-for-profit hospitals. That study, based on a survey of 50 hospitals, showed that two-thirds of the facilities had reduced or eliminated programs and services because of Medicare and Medicaid cuts.
"Michigan hospitals have been forced to react to these serious shortfalls with layoffs, service reductions, elimination of community health and wellness programs, and in some cases even the closure of community hospitals," said Spencer Johnson, president of the Michigan hospital association.
The 50 hospitals surveyed have so far reported $537 million in lost revenue because of the payment restraints in the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 and cuts in Medicaid.
The Florida Hospital Association also recently released a report trumpeting that "government cutbacks undermine the safety-net services hospitals provide."
The report, mailed with the association's weekly newsletter, said Medicare reductions mandated by the balanced-budget law will top $3.5 billion in lost revenue for Florida hospitals over five years.