By Jill Zorn
Hospitals did not have a good week in the media. There was this SLATE article, Hospitals are Robbing us Blind, by conservative columnist Reihan Salan, that said, “Whether you’re for Obamacare or against it, you can’t afford to ignore the fact that America’s hospitals have become predatory monopolies. We have to break them before they break us.” Salan is particularly hard on larger hospitals, “The bigger, more dominant you are in a local market, the more you can extract from private insurers and taxpayers.”
Then there was this Upshot column in the New York Times by Incidental Economist Austin Frakt that basically says the cost shift is a myth, that the data show NO direct relationship between private and public payment rates. “Study after study in recent years has cast doubt on the idea that hospitals increase prices to privately insured patients because the government lowers reimbursements from Medicare and Medicaid.”
Here in Connecticut, several pieces of legislation are moving forward in the Connecticut General Assembly and received major attention at a recent Public Health Committee hearing. These bills are designed to provide better oversight over hospitals or at least require more transparency about their prices and quality.
In a video testimony on the bills, Universal Health Care Foundation President Frances Padilla, calls for a comprehensive approach to hospital and health system planning and regulation, with a focus on achieving the Triple Aim — better patient experience and quality of care, lower cost, and most importantly, improved health for everyone.
As our upcoming Reform to Transform event, “Getting to Better Health: CONNECTing Care and Community,” will show on April 29, health is about a lot more than health care.
Meanwhile, there is an encouraging development from the hospital industry itself that shows that hospital executives may be starting to listen to their many critics. A recent American Hospital Association initiative, “Redefining the H,” acknowledges the need for hospitals to become more responsive to and responsible for the health of their communities. This effort will be explained in an upcoming webinar. The accompanying report says, “Hospitals accountability and commitment to their communities are not only for the care provided with the hospital walls, but also for improving the overall health of the communities served.”
Last week, the Association of Academic Health Centers — both Yale and UConn are members — launched a new initiative, Where Health Begins, which focuses on the responsibility of academic health centers to address the many social and economic forces that have an impact on the health of their communities. Their report can be found here. A webinar of the launch of this effort can be watched here.
Both of these new initiatives encourage hospitals to use their influence and resources to improve the health of their communities. Now it is up to the public to hold them accountable.