Hurricane Harvey compounds financial stress on Houston-area hospitals

Rescue workers traverse floodwaters
Hurricane Harvey will make it harder for hospitals that are already financially struggling. (U.S. Department of Defense)

Hurricane Harvey not only inflicted devastating damage to homes and businesses, it will likely lead to significant financial losses for some Texas hospitals and health systems.

Houston hospitals were forced to close or cancel surgeries and outpatient appointments, and in some cases evacuate patients to nearby acute care facilities.

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But healthcare experts say that hospitals will face more financial hardship in the weeks ahead when people who have lost their homes and jobs seek medical treatment for free.

“A lot of hospitals already were burdened by uncompensated care ... they were already struggling, and this will make things much harder,” Vivian Ho, a healthcare economist at Rice University in Houston, told Reuters.

Indeed, prior to the hurricane, Texas healthcare organizations had faced a perfect storm of financial challenges, including uncertainty over the future of the Affordable Care Act, massive job cuts due to the large number of uninsured residents and millions of dollars in losses.

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Care Regional Medical Center suffered severe damage to its roof and interior, Healthcare Finance News reports. Aransas Pass Care Regional Medical Center, a critical access hospital, had to close and is assessing the damage and formulating a plan to rebuild.

Memorial Hermann announced on Friday it was actively working to reopen facilities that were temporarily closed due to the storm. Although two hospitals still remain closed, the organization has been able to reopen most medical group practice and urgent care locations. Harris Health System said it expected to reopen 27 facilities on Tuesday but eight centers remain closed.

And just as hospitals were beginning to reopen on Thursday, Baptist Hospitals of Southeast Texas was forced to close its doors when the city’s water pump failed and cut off the water supply.