SALEM, Ore.The state of Oregon has launched a Web site where consumers can find out the average hospital payments for 82 common medical procedures and conditions. The Compare Hospital Costs site, which launched this month, shows what the nine largest private health insurance carriers paid statewide for these treatments to acute-care facilities in 2005. The data do not include Medicare or Medicaid claims. While many other states provide information on hospitals billed charges, only two other statesNew Hampshire and Pennsylvaniareport the actual charges that most insurers pay. Consumers can choose knee joint replacement, for instance, and find out the average and median payment made to each hospital in the state for that service and the number of patients treated.
SAN FRANCISCOIn an era when burn units are closing around the country, 210-bed St. Francis Memorial Hospital has announced it will expand its acute-burn center from 10 to 14 beds. The renovations, expected to take four to six months, are greatly needed in the San Francisco Bay Area, where three burn units have closed in the past decade, officials at St. Francis said. Most recently, the troubled 247-bed Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo, Calif., shuttered its six-bed burn unit in February 2006 because it was losing $3 million a year. Our census is double what it was seven to eight years ago, said Angela Gates, clinical manager of St. Francis Bothin Burn Center. Nationally, the number of burn beds has declined in the past decade, according to the American Burn Association, which verifies burn centers with the American College of Surgeons. There are 12 burn centers in California. Each year, burn injuries result in 50,000 acute hospital admissions nationwide, of which half require care from designated burn centers, according to the burn association. The University of California at Davis is also expanding its burn unit from eight beds to 12 in a new facility to open in 2010.
SAN FRANCISCOCalifornians increasingly are dissatisfied with the healthcare system and more favor a single-payer system over making reforms within the current system, according to a new Field Poll. In a nearly identical poll conducted last December, 52% of voters surveyed supported making reforms within the health insurance systems current framework, by sharing responsibilities among employers, government and business. Now, 33% favor this idea. Conversely, 36% of voters now support tossing the current model with a new government-run system to cover all residents. Last December, 24% of voters favored this single-payer approach, according to that Field Poll. Overall, 69% of voters expressed dissatisfaction with Californias healthcare system, compared with 44% last December. Only 6% said in the most recent poll that they thought healthcare reform was very likely this year while 30% said it was somewhat likely. Another 33% said reform this year was not too likely, and 25% said it is not at all likely. Democrats, nonpartisans and liberals favored replacing the current system with a government-run system much more than Republicans or conservatives, who found it the least attractive of three options given. The results were based on a random sample survey of 536 registered voters statewide conducted Aug. 3-12.
OAKLAND, Calif.California hospitals are operating on very thin margins and increasingly relying on commercial insurers to bankroll rising expenses and mandatory capital improvements they can ill-afford, according to a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the California HealthCare Foundation. In 2005, one-third of the states hospitals did not break even and 44% of them, or 140 hospitals, had operating margins equal to Standard & Poors ratings below investment grade, according to the report, based on data collected by the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development. Declines in Medicare and its Medicaid, or Medi-Cal, reimbursements have made hospitals increasingly reliant on private insurers, the report found. From 2001-05, Medicare net revenue per patient day dropped to 74% from 87% and no longer covers the average daily cost of care. Meanwhile, overall net revenue from private payers rose to 45% in 2005 from 40% in 2001, according to the report. I think that raises the question as to whether hospitals can rely on negotiating with commercial payers to pay their bills, said Susan Maerki, a director at PricewaterhouseCoopers, who led the study. Total hospital expenses grew at about 8% a year over those five years, at a higher rate than in previous years. About half of expenses were for salaries and benefits, Maerki said.
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