HealthLeaders Media Finance - January 5, 2009 | 2009: The Year of Belt-tightening? View as a Webpage | Subscribe for Free
2009: The Year of Belt-tightening?
Philip Betbeze, Senior Editor-Finance

I don't need a crystal ball to tell you all that the tough financial times are likely to get tougher as we move forward into 2009. You could probably use an expert to explain all the ways this is true in healthcare so you can strategize for the new year, but you're stuck with me, so I'll do it. With disclaimers that nothing is riding on these predictions, see if you agree with me. [Read More]

  January 5, 2009

 
Editor's Picks
Recession is crippling hospitals
Here we have a sweeping story by a national newspaper about the struggles the hospital industry is facing in terms of closures—a story that makes at least one of my predictions in the column above pretty risk-free, I admit. By the way, I simply love this quote from the story. "They'll get swallowed up by somebody else, if they need to exist, and if they don't, they'll just close," said Tuck Crocker, vice president of the health care practice at management consultant BearingPoint. I don't agree that the hospital industry is anywhere near as Darwinian as this quote, but it's snappy anyway. And I'm a sucker for a snappy quote. [Read More]
Healthcare deductibles prompt year-end business boom
The law of unintended consequences strikes again—this time with healthcare as people with high-deductible health plans waited until the end of the year to schedule and receive healthcare services. This annual Year-End Mini-Boom was courtesy of those who already had paid their deductibles and wanted to schedule covered care before the January 1 reset. Look for this trend to accelerate in 2009, because high-deductible plans seem here to stay. [Read More]
State panel to examine insurer's payments to Boston's Partners
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick is convening a panel to look into whether an eight-year-old agreement between the state Blue Cross plan and Partners HealthCare System artificially drove up healthcare costs and protected the hospital system from competition. Partners, formed from the merger of two huge academic medical centers on the promise that the combined entity would cut healthcare costs over time, has instead become a driving force in the escalation of medical costs in the state, the Boston Globe article says. See "A handshake that made healthcare history," the original Globe piece that prompted the panel formation, below in "finance headlines." [Read More]
Boston healthcare groups push for federal bailout money
Hey, why not? Everyone else is bellying up to this figurative bar. Forgive my populist rant, but I want to know where my bailout money is. I suppose there are worse places to spend an expected "federal stimulus" windfall than healthcare, such as a lavish resort trip for AIG execs, but has it not occurred to some of these folks lobbying for federal assistance that perhaps we shouldn't spend it at all? Every time I read about some new demand on the federal government for more money, I'm reminded of the old quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin: "When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic." [Read More]
Finance Forum
Preparation of a Proposal for a Federal Healthcare Contract
Bidding on a government contract for services your hospital already renders can be an attractive way to bring additional revenue into your organization. But first you have to get past the daunting rules and regulations in the government's RFP, says Scott Honiberg. In this article, Honiberg walks you through a bidding process that might be quite refreshing: instead of the government telling you what your organization will get for a procedure, you tell the government the price you're willing to accept. [Read More]
Finance Headlines
Medicare fraud debate shifts to patients
San Francisco Chronicle - December 25, 2008
A handshake that made healthcare history
Boston Globe - December 28, 2008
Missouri bill could mean tax break for physicians who see Medicaid patients
Kansas City Star - December 22, 2008
Ailing Tennessee economy sparks healthcare layoffs
The Tennessean - December 31, 2008
PacifiCare fined for denying health claims
The Oregonian - December 30, 2008
From HealthLeaders Magazine
20 People Who Make Healthcare Better
HealthLeaders August 2008 In our annual HealthLeaders 20, we offer profiles of individuals who are making a difference in today's complex healthcare world. [Read More]
Service Line Management
Here Come the Seniors
The well-documented influx of baby boomer patients promises to increase the already high demand for senior services. But the prospect of expanding a service line that relies so heavily on Medicare has some hospital leaders jittery. [Read More]
Money Talk

Synergy Health Inc., Marshfield, WI
Rating: AA-
Outlook: Stable
Affected Debt: $70.1 million
Agency: Fitch Ratings
Remarks: Upgraded from BBB- because of the recent affiliation of Synergy's St. Joseph Hospital as well as other affiliated members of Synergy with Froedtert & Community Health. [Read More]
Audio Feature

Sea Change With Hospital Debt: As hospitals have lost insurance on their bonds due to failures at traditional bond insurers, investors are insisting that hospitals' debt be insured by their performance, says Thomas Royer, MD, president and CEO of Christus Health.
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