KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Safety-Net Hospitals Fear Fiscal Effects Of Health Overhaul

News outlets report on the hospital industry, including safety-net hospitals that fear the financial effects of the health care overhaul.

"The hard-fought health reforms slowly taking shape across the country are intended to help provide better access to care -- but they could mean financial trouble for so-called 'safety-net' hospitals that take care of the poor," The Fresno Bee reports. "Already, hospital officials say millions in payments have been cut this year for Medicare patients in California, and they expect billions of dollars in cuts over the next 10 years for Medicare and Medi-Cal, as government tightens spending to help cover more people. Meanwhile, they're bracing for 2014, when expanded insurance coverage begins and more patients on low-paying government health plans who can't otherwise find a physician show up in already overwhelmed emergency departments." But government officials "disagree, saying safety-net hospitals will be in better shape because more people will have insurance to pay for treatment, reducing the amount of charity care hospitals now provide" (Anderson, 7/24).

Meanwhile, a new study has found that emergency room wait times are getting longer, MedPage Today/ABC News reports. The average time a patient spent in the emergency department ticked up by four minutes from 2008 to 2009, which brought the total time to four hours and seven minutes, an increase of 31 minutes since 2002, according to the 2010 Emergency Department Pulse Report by Press Ganey, a hospital consulting firm. The findings were based on survey results from 1.5 million patients" (Neale, 7/25).

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