Inpatient volumes down nationwide

Non-profit hospitals are struggling with smaller patient volume, continuing to bring into question the strength of their longtime financial outlook, according to a new report by Moody's Investors Service .

The numbers are the result of a survey of the 2010 financial statements for 417 hospitals and health systems conducted by Moody's, which rates the debt for these institutions.

Altogether, patient volumes declined by 0.4 percent in 2010 after being flat in 2009.

"The declining median growth rates for these volume indicators are mostly due to the persistently sluggish economy as patients are deferring care," said Moody's Vice President Beth Wexler. "A stubborn unemployment rate also translates into greater uncompensated care for hospitals."

However, hospitals did improve their financial positions overall, primarily by cutting spending.

Moody's revised the outlook for the non-profit hospital sector from stable to negative in 2008, as the nation began to be plunged into a financial crisis and severe recession. It reported that the negative economic environment is persisting, driven by high rates of unemployment, uncertainty about the future of healthcare reform, and potential pending cuts in Medicare payments to hospitals.

To learn more:
- read the Moody's report

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