Community hospitals get hammered in Massachusetts

A new report by the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission has concluded that the state's community hospitals are suffering financially at the expense of costlier urban teaching hospitals.

On average, the state's community hospitals spend $1,500 less per case mix adjusted patient stay compared to urban teaching hospitals, according to the report. However, some larger teaching hospitals charged nearly $4,800 more per patient.

Nevertheless, community hospitals are marching along at a 64 percent occupancy rate--20 percentage points lower than the occupancy rates of the urban teaching hospitals in the Bay State. Many patients in areas served by community hospitals are often traveling to Boston to undergo joint replacements and similar surgeries, The Boston Globe has reported.

Partners HealthCare System, the state's largest non-profit hospital system, had to enter into an agreement with the state attorney general's office two years ago to limit its market clout in order to complete the acquisition of South Shore Hospital.

"Community hospitals are a crucial part of our healthcare delivery system, yet they face some substantial challenges for the future," David Seltz, executive director of the Health Policy Commission, an agency formed four years ago to curb healthcare costs, told The Boston Globe. Seltz suggested that the current imbalance in the system could make it difficult to contain healthcare costs in Massachusetts in the future.

The economics of hospital operations in Massachusetts tend to favor larger and pricier providers. A state study released last year concluded that hospitals that charge patients more tend to reap more revenue.

To learn more:
- read the Health Policy Commission report (.pdf)
- here's The Boston Globe article