fah hospital policy blog

Perspectives on health policy affecting America’s hospitals and the patients we serve.

Category Archives: uncategorized

Altarum to Host Symposium Exploring US Health Care Spending

July 14, 2014 | FAH Hospital Policy Blog

Category: Uncategorized

Tomorrow, the Altarum Institute will host a Symposium titled “Sustainable US Health Spending: The Quest for Value.” The Altarum Institute is a leading voice for accurate and timely information on critical health care economic issues, and the FAH commends it for hosting this symposium on such an important topic in today’s health care marketplace.

The historic slowdown in health care spending is enduring, with the latest data from the BEA showing a decrease in spending in Q1 of -1.4%. Two studies conducted by the independent health economics and policy research firm Dobson | DaVanzo in 2013 and 2014, respectively, show that this trend is foundational, rooted in the structural changes occurring across the industry, and could yield further substantial savings. The March 2014 study projects an additional $900 billion in Medicare savings is possible beyond Congressional Budget Office estimates if the positive structural dynamics at play are allowed to continue without interruption.

Altarum’s symposium on health care spending will facilitate a dialogue with many leading voices across the health care arena, explore this national spending slowdown trend, and discuss what the future holds for spending growth and efficiency in this critical sector of our economy.

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FAH Submits Letter in Support of Expanded VA Care

July 09, 2014 | FAH Hospital Policy Blog

Category: Uncategorized

The FAH submitted a letter to the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Conference Committee today to express support for a few key policies and suggest some modifications that would improve health care for America’s service men and women. The letter highlights the FAH’s support for a prompt pay amendment, originally authored by Senators Johanns (R-NE) and Warner (D-VA), that would be an important step in ensuring access to the vital care our country’s retired service members so deserve.

FAH hospitals are committed to assisting those who have served their country to receive quality and timely health care. Our hospitals proudly serve veterans through the Non-VA Medical Care Program, and we support continuing efforts to increase critical access to care for America’s heroes.

We are grateful to have the opportunity to submit our comments to the Veterans’ Affairs conferees and applaud their commitment to improving the health of our nation’s veterans.

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Joint Committee to Discuss Improved Access for Veterans

June 24, 2014 | FAH Hospital Policy Blog

Category: Uncategorized

Today, the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Conference Committee meets to discuss H.R. 3230: the Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014. The FAH applauds the conferees for meeting to ensure that our nation’s veterans receive access to quality and timely medical care.

FAH hospitals already proudly serve veterans through the Non-VA Medical Care Program, which allows veterans in certain circumstances to receive care from non-VA providers. We are eager to do our part to help assure that all of our retired service members obtain the vital hospital services that they need, when they need it.

A solution to the backlog at the Department of Veterans Affairs is a top priority for our country. The FAH will continue to work with the Veterans Administration to offer care to those who have served our country, and we are hopeful that the conferees will quickly agree on legislation to facilitate access to the high-quality hospital care that our retired service members so deeply deserve.

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Realignment in the 21st Century—Challenging Common Misconceptions

June 24, 2014 | FAH Hospital Policy Blog

Category: Realignment, Uncategorized

A recent post in The New York Times’ “The Upshot” blog by Boston University health economist Austin Frakt assesses the impact of large provider organizations on the American health care system and consumers. This offers the latest example of academia clinging to and reciting misconceptions about provider consolidation and realignments that are outdated – and in some cases – altogether incorrect.

It is a mistake to rely on studies of realignments based on market conditions in the 1990s as apropos or relevant examples of the current market and state of health care. Contemporary studies and reports on realignment show many of the claims based upon 1990s market conditions no longer hold weight. Earlier this year, the FAH commissioned a report from FTI Consulting’s Center for Healthcare Economics and Policy to perform a comprehensive review of the state of hospital consolidation today.

The Center’s report surveyed 75 studies and 36 primary sources, all pertaining to recent realignments. What it finds is a reality far different from the claims from critics:

Significant Community Benefits: Perhaps the most surprising finding—The Center’s report states that realignments create marked community benefits such as expansion of services, improved service offerings and quality of care, sustained and necessary investment in technology, facilities and health IT, and prevention of hospital closures that, in turn, maintain access to emergency and many other hospital services. These benefits, overlooked in all previous assessments of realignments, are in fact providing a better health care model for consumers.

Hospital Prices: The largest misconception linked to realignment is that it increases hospital prices. The Center’s report found no consistent statistical relationship between realignment and prices. The claims of price hikes for consumers with realignment have no direct correlations based on contemporary mergers, consolidations and realignments.

Market Power: Second to assertions of price increases is the claim of increased market power for hospitals and elimination of competition in markets where realignments take place. Much to the contrary, the Center’s analysis showed that the vast majority of mergers do not impede market competition.

WHY? Old Data. The root of these misconceptions perpetuated over time lies with the data sourced for the claims. It turns out the majority of critics railing against hospital realignments are taking a page from the same book, filled with 20+ year old data. The economic environment and the state of health care in the 1990s is so vastly different from today – trying to equate that data and those experiences to what we are living right now is what drives these errors and misconceptions even in 2014.

REALITY: Market conditions today are responding to key drivers behind realignments. The Center’s study assesses the drivers behind realignments today. The nation’s health care landscape is shifting toward integrated systems and coordinated care to create sustainable market conditions for hospital care and services. It is this transition of the health care model in conjunction with other factors, including substantial public sector reductions in hospital funding, which necessitates many of these realignments – hospitals must adapt to survive and continue serving their patients.

In addition, price growth in health care generally, including hospitals, has been in a steady decline for years. And this decline, which remains near historic lows, has occurred during the same period in which there has been a great deal of hospital realignment. Underscoring this trend, the Altarum Institute’s May 8, 2014, report states that “[w]hile analysts continue to express concern about the potential pricing power from provider consolidation, there is, as yet, scant evidence of this.”

When we assess policy trends, we must look forward. Looking back nearly 25 years will not paint an apt picture of the reality we know now. It is imperative for experts and other industry leaders to look towards contemporary, comprehensive reports for appropriate data and analysis. Recycling claims based on decades-old data does not serve the consumer and does not speak to the reality of healthcare today.

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