Wholesale prices for general acute-care hospitals rose sharply by 1.1% in July, after a 0.1% increase in June. Meanwhile, wholesale physician prices rose 0.1% in July after a 0.2% increase in June, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Producer Price Index. By comparison, prices for all finished goods rose 0.1%. Hospital prices were 5.2% higher than a year earlier, while wholesale physician prices were 1.8% higher.
Moody's offers outlook
Moody's Investors Service said minimal volume growth, smaller growth in reimbursements, higher costs and management turnover are all drags on the financial performance of not-for-profit hospitals, giving the ratings firm a "modestly negative" outlook for hospitals in 2004. These negatives outweigh some positive trends, Moody's said, such as targeted reimbursement increases and the stifling of specialty hospital competition in the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, a general economic recovery, an easing of nurse labor rate increases and revenue cycle management improvements made by hospitals.
Pa. system wants suit dropped
Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia and Radnor, Pa.-based Jefferson Health System, of which Albert Einstein is a member, asked a federal judge to dismiss them from a wide-ranging class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of uninsured patients by plaintiff lawyer Richard Scruggs and other law firms. The lawsuits, filed in federal courts around the country against 44 not-for-profit health systems operating more than 350 hospitals in 23 states, allege that the defendant hospitals overcharge uninsured patients, discriminate in pricing policies and employ aggressive collection techniques. Scruggs and other lawyers filed new lawsuits against four other health systems-five-hospital Baptist Health in Little Rock, Ark.; four-hospital Inova Health System in Falls Church, Va.; Mississippi Baptist Health Systems in Jackson; and Christus Health, a 23-hospital system based in Irving, Texas. Christus Health's Christus St. Patrick Hospital of Lake Charles (La.) also was added to the class-action litigation. The plaintiffs are seeking to have the hospitals' motions to dismiss stayed until a federal multidistrict litigation panel in Washington rules on the plaintiffs' motion to consolidate the suits. A hearing on that motion is set for Sept. 30.