Skyrocketing wholesale prices
Wholesale prices for general medical and surgical hospitals recorded their highest-ever monthly increase in April-1.4%-and were up 6.2% from the 12 months earlier, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Producer Price Index. In January, the PPI for general acute-care hospitals took its biggest monthly jump in three years, 0.8%. Rising healthcare prices have been a subject of intense concern in recent months, and hospital utilization has gotten much of the blame. Meanwhile, prices for physician services were up 0.8% in April and 1% from 12 months earlier.
Christus settles with IRS
Christus Health, Irving, Texas, said it settled an Internal Revenue Service audit of $411 million in acquisition financing bonds and won't be required to restructure its debt or pay a penalty under the settlement. The 23-hospital system is the last to settle among seven systems publicly known to have their acquisition financing bonds under IRS review (See related story, p. 36). However, the IRS still is reviewing deals by a handful of other hospitals and systems that came forward voluntarily, industry sources said. The IRS began its audit of Christus bonds in May 2000. The bonds were issued in 1999.
Report lists most expensive ORs
Tenet Healthcare Corp., Santa Barbara, Calif., and HCA, Nashville, own 44 of the nation's 100 most expensive operating rooms, according to a report by the California Nurses Association and the Institute for Health and Socio-Economic Policy, Orinda, Calif. Other for-profit companies accounted for an additional 17 of the most expensive ORs, meaning that for-profit companies owned 61 of the 100 most-expensive ORs, the report said. The majority of the most expensive ORs-79-were owned by multihospital systems, both for-profit and not-for-profit. The report was based on a comparison of federal Medicare cost reports for about 4,500 U.S. hospitals for fiscal 1999 and 2000. In addition, hospitals marked up OR gross charges by an average of 220% over actual costs, the report said, with for-profit hospitals accounting for nine of the 10 ORs with the highest markups.
Poll: 24% of residents want out
Some 24% of medical residents in their final year of training said they would choose a different career if they could begin again, according to a survey by Irving, Texas-based Merritt, Hawkins & Associates, a consulting and physician search firm. In the firm's 2001 survey, 5% of the physicians-in-training reported having such serious second thoughts. About 325 of 4,870 residents contacted by the firm completed the survey. Of those, about 60% said malpractice costs are causing them "significant concern" as they enter the practice of medicine-compared with 15% who expressed similar apprehension in the 2001 survey. Also, 60% cited concerns about managed care and payment issues, up from 25% in 2001. "This should be an exciting time for doctors `coming out,' " said Joseph Hawkins, the firm's chief executive officer. "Instead, many of them are already disillusioned with medicine."