The growth in health spending ebbed in recent years, and economists disagree whether that's a result of the lagging economy or reflects meaningful changes in payment, delivery and consumption. Nowicki said he expects the pace of healthcare growth will pick up again, particularly with 10,000 Baby Boomers reaching 65 every day.
Still, providers will have "targets on their backs," he said, because hospitals and physicians accounted for 60% of the $2.7 trillion in health spending in fiscal 2011—the most recent full-year numbers offered by CMS actuaries.
Meanwhile, attendees expressed concern that government efforts at the state and federal level to increase transparency on hospital finances may be undercutting efforts to raise the number of newly insured Americans under the Affordable Care Act.
Fulton Ervin, CFO at McLeod Health, a multihospital system in northeast South Carolina, noted with some bitterness that the state's new Medicaid director recently published financial information for all hospitals in South Carolina. He claimed it was a bid to undercut their efforts to lobby state lawmakers to raise Medicaid eligibility in the state, which Republican Gov. Nikki Haley has persistently and unequivocally opposed.
Tony Keck, the Medicaid official who published the hospital data on a state website, has argued that an insurance card alone is worthless and the state must first work to ensure that Medicaid delivers meaningful coverage.
Ervin countered that the coverage would allow South Carolina's many uninsured residents (20% of the population, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation) immediate access to important coverage, such as mammograms and regular visits to doctors. "When you know it can help people, it just kills you," Ervin said.
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