News Column

As Hospital Billing Changes, Will Docs Leave?

Nov. 21, 2012

The fact the federal funding emphasis under the Affordable Care Act shifts from hospitals to prevention and primary care physicians doesn't mean hospitals won't continue to be a vital part of the health care system.

Reading Hospital contributed $182.8 million in health services to the Berks County community in 2011. Part of that contribution was $146 million in unreimbursed Medicare and Medicaid costs, $16 million in unpaid bills and $6 million in uncompensated charity care.

But to hear Michael Strazzella tell it, the ACA and the possible fiscal cliff deadline on Jan. 1 are going to bankrupt hospitals in the state.

Strazzella, senior vice president of the Hospital Association of Pennsylvania, said in a recent telephone conference that facilities like Reading Hospital and St. Joseph Medical Center already are running on the thinnest of margins.

Potential cuts in federal funds and reimbursements to hospitals could cause mass retirements by older physicians and moves out of state by younger doctors and the loss of 37,000 other health care jobs statewide, according to Strazzella.

"It is a constant struggle for hospitals to meet the financial demands at the same time as meeting patient care and needs of the community," Strazzella said. "Any reductions from the federal government could jeopardize those hospitals."

With all that said, Strazzella said HAP endorsed and continues to support the Affordable Care Act.

"We did support the act," Strazzella said. "We thought there was a shared sacrifice needed to ensure that 33 million Americans were insured."

Distributed by MCT Information Services

Source: (c) 2012 the Reading Eagle (Reading, Pa.)

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