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Hospital Marketplace

  • U.S. Hospital Profits Fall as Labor Costs Grow and Patient Mix Shifts  Wall Street Journal by Melanie Evans — One important measure of U.S. hospital profits last year reached a low not seen in the past decade, as a tight labor market and other factors pressure hospital finances. The median hospital operating cash flow margin—monitored by Moody's Investors Service as a signal of financial strength—fell to 8.1 percent last year from 9.5 percent a year earlier, in a preliminary analysis of 160 nonprofit and public hospitals and hospital systems with credit ratings from the agency, a Moody's report said. That is the lowest level in the past decade, Moody's data show. The prior low point came in 2008, when the median margin reached 9.1 percent. That year, a deep recession sharply slowed growth in insurers' spending on hospital care….Now, the metric's decline points to new challenges for U.S. hospitals as more patients seek medical care in nonhospital settings, and as enrollment surges in Medicare, which typically pays hospitals less than commercial insurers do. Those trends are squeezing hospital revenue, while a tight labor market is driving expenses higher, Moody's said.

  • HHS Proposes Medicare Payment Rules to Encourage Hospitals to Be Clearer About Prices  Washington Post by Amy Goldstein —The Trump administration is proposing to rewrite rules on federal payments to hospitals treating older Americans on Medicare, making it easier for patients to see the prices of procedures and care. As part of annual updates to Medicare payment rules, federal health officials also want to add $1.5 billion for the coming year to the funds for so-called disproportionate share payments that help buffer hospitals from the expense of treating patients who cannot pay their bills. The increase is a sign that the government expects an influx in uninsured patients — something administration officials seldom discuss amid their policies to weaken the Affordable Care Act. In addition, the revisions seek to motivate hospitals to improve electronic medical records, while eliminating certain measures of the quality of care that the government now requires them to report.

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