HealthLeaders Media Finance - September 2, 2008 | Reader Mail View as a Webpage | Subscribe for Free
Reader Mail
Philip Betbeze, Senior Editor-Finance

Every once in a while, I like to share with you how some readers have responded to my recent columns. Some like what I've had to say, some vigorously disagree, but either way I love to share the more interesting ones with the rest of you. In some cases, I've edited for brevity and grammar. So without further delay, here are some of the best over the past eight weeks or so, with my commentary. [Read More]
  September 2, 2008

 
Editor's Picks
Decline seen in uninsured for 2007
The U.S. Census Bureau says the number of uninsured dropped from 47 million in 2006 to 45.7 million in 2007, which is real progress given that the number of uninsured has grown for the past six straight years (and given that population grows each year). The Bureau attributed the drop to the growth in government-sponsored health programs, most of which cut the number of uninsured children. Typically, the New York Times reporter spends the rest of the story attempting to downplay the significance of the drop. I'm not saying the uninsured is not a huge problem, but let's at least try to take the bias out of reporting, shall we? [Read More]
Financial cure unsure at Atlanta's Grady
A progress report released to the local paper from PriceWaterhouse Coopers says that transforming Atlanta's public hospital, Grady Memorial, will take sustained effort and commitment that seems to currently be missing from staff. The consulting firm has helped save more than $34 million between October 2007 and June 2008, the report says, but the changes will be difficult to sustain because of cultural barriers accurately charging patients for services rendered and an inefficient contracting process, among many other challenges. My take is that it takes time to change culture in a system that has long been a tool of political patronage. Grady has made significant changes to its board structure and its leadership that will take time to pay off, but it's certainly in better shape than it was this time last year. [Read More]
UPMC's profits take nose-dive
This just in: Healthcare's not immune from the credit crisis or the general malaise affecting the economy. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, which made a record profit of $612 million in 2007, recorded only a paltry $5 million profit in 2008. The biggest drain on the Pittsburgh behemoth isn't operations, which also slid in 2008—it's the organization's investment portfolio, which lost $128 million in the fiscal year versus a $403 million gain in 2007. The important thing is that the system is still profitable, which is more than I can say for my 401(k). [Read More]
Uninsured to spend $30 billion for care in 2008
While the uninsured collectively paid $30 billion for care in 2007, the government picked up another $56 billion in costs that they couldn't pay. The report, which was published in the journal Health Affairs, estimates the government pays 75% of the amount uninsured patients can't pay. [Read More]
Future trends in tax-exempt healthcare borrowing
This article is somewhat self-serving, but you're allowed to do that in your own newsletter. See Betbeze, Philip, HealthLeaders Media Finance. In any case, the article is a very succinct look at the challenges hospitals are facing as they look to issue debt in times where bond insurance is largely worthless and far fewer players are competing for your bond issue than was the case in the recent past. [Read More]
 
Finance Forum
Connect Branding to the Bottom Line, Part 1
In healthcare's highly competitive marketplace, your brand has to be developed into something extraordinary. It must evoke a positive rational as well as emotional response from all your stakeholders, including patients, physicians, employees, and donors. But most importantly, your brand needs to drive the bottom line. In Part 1 of a two-part series, HealthLeaders Media contributor Gabrielle DeTora outlines a plan for CFOs to measure true return on investment from your marketing team's efforts. Next week, DeTora will go through steps to improve ROI once you're able to measure it. [Read More]
 
Finance Headlines
More hospitals want payment before treatment
South Florida Sun-Sentinel - August 26, 2008
Blue Cross plans feeling pressure to consolidate
Wall Street Journal (subscription required) - August 26, 2008
As HCA marks 40 years, its impact on healthcare is still felt
The Tennessean - August 27, 2008
Tampa General Hospital faces Medicare sanctions
St. Petersburg Times - August 22, 2008
Fairview, Blue Cross of Minnesota sign new contract
Minneapolis Star Tribune - August 22, 2008
Medical identity theft spreads
Chicago Tribune - August 22, 2008
Stanford to limit drug maker financing
New York Times - August 26, 2008
Waterbury, CT, hospitals exploring merger
Hartford Courant - August 27, 2008
 
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From HealthLeaders Magazine
Help the Uninsured (Without Going Broke)
HealthLeaders August 2008 The number of people who can't pay much—or anything—for their care just keeps rising. Some hospitals have found new ways to help them while still protecting the financial health of the hospital. [Read More]
 
Money Talk

A look at one hospital's struggles to improve

Southwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center, McComb, MS
Rating: BBB-
Outlook: Stable
Affected Debt: $18.51 million
Agency: Standard & Poor's
Remarks: Days cash on hand approaches speculative credit levels after further deterioration in operating performance in the 2007 fiscal year.
[Read More]
 
Audio Feature

The Source of Bad Debt: Today's conversation is with Earl Winter, CEO of nTelagent Inc., a provider of self-pay management systems for healthcare providers, whose company recently ran a test of aged trial balance analyses for some of their customers and discovered that about 65% of all bad debt results from insured patients, not the uninsured, as many assume. The key, then, is to maximize uncollected but collectable debt in many small packages.
 
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