KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Maryland Raises Hospital Rates; D.C. May Reenter Hospital Business

News outlets report on the hospital markets in Maryland and the District of Columbia.

"Maryland patients will pay hundreds of dollars more for hospital stays under price hikes made final Wednesday by the state agency that sets rates for the medical institutions," The Baltimore Sun reports. "The price for health care that hospitals pass on to insurers and patients will soar 4.4 percent this year - adding $596 million to the total tab - under several rate increases approved by the Maryland Health Services Cost Review Commission. As a result, the average inpatient hospital bill will rise $386, to $12,141." The Sun also notes that these increases also will likely translate into higher insurance premium costs for consumers. "The higher rates are needed to cover the cost of treating more uninsured patients turning to hospitals for care, most likely because of people losing their jobs in this weak economy, according to the commission. The increases also help to cover $123 million in Medicaid expenses that the cash-strapped state eliminated from its budget" (Walker, 7/7).

Meanwhile, The District of Columbia "might, by noon Friday, once again be in the hospital business, fewer than 10 years after it thought it was out for good," The Washington Post reports. "After the failure of Specialty Hospitals of America to bring [United Medical Center] into the black, an auction has been set, and the city doesn't expect any bidders. Saving the hospital ... has been the subject of a three-year crusade by D.C. Council member David A. Catania (I-At Large), chairman of the health committee… But it's not just the politicians who are invested in keeping UMC alive and well. Owners of the city's six other full-service hospitals would consider the facility's closing a "disaster," said Robert Malson, president of the D.C. Hospital Association. They're afraid of a flood of poor and uninsured residents that could strain their own precarious bottom lines" (DeBonis, 7/9).

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