Distressed hospitals in America operate on small or non-existent profit margins.3 For many of those hospitals, the federal Medicare program and the individual States’ Medicaid programs are the largest payors. While the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (the “Affordable Care Act”) was designed in part to increase the number of insured nationwide, the result of which should be positive for hospitals, any cause for celebration must first address the cost containment provisions in the Affordable Care Act that create new concerns for financially distressed hospitals. Included among the multitude of provisions in the Affordable Care Act are an immediate 1% cut in Medicare revenue, phased in reductions in disproportionate share payments to hospitals, future, permanent penalties of up to 1% of Medicare payments for hospitals which perform poorly under the Hospital Value Based Purchasing Program, and additional penalties for hospitals with unacceptable rates of re-admission or too many hospital acquired conditions rates.4 Together these cuts create a daunting challenge for the many financially distressed hospitals in America that simply lack the resources to establish an infrastructure designed to treat Medicare patients in this era of change.
Medicare is the federal program that provides health care coverage to individuals aged 65 or older. Medicaid offers similar access for medical services on a state level for qualifying individuals, many of whom are poor. Medicaid covers 69 million people.5 By 2020, under the Affordable Care Act the number of Medicaid beneficiaries is likely to increase to 93 million.6 Combined, Medicare and Medicaid pay for more than half of the annual hospital bills in America. … Read more →