Premier: Financial blows from reform begins to recede

The latest economic outlook survey from Premier, Inc. suggests the financial burdens associated with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have begun to recede.

The rate of hospital C-suite executives who said reimbursement cuts would have the greatest impact on their bottom lines decreased to 35.4 percent of respondents, down from 46.7 percent a year ago, according to the data from Premier.

But nearly 78 percent of the respondents say they have "resource utilization programs in place to better control the use of expensive supplies and purchased services." Among larger hospitals, the rate of compliance was approaching 90 percent. Another recent survey by Huron Healthcare concluded that improving care delivery and clinical operations was the best way to reduce costs.

"There's no question that reimbursement cuts put a severe strain on tight hospital budgets," said Michael J. Alkire, Premier's chief operating officer, told MedCity News. "But hospitals have also made great strides in improving operational efficiency and clinical quality, which has enabled them to better manage the reductions."

Meanwhile, compliance with ACA mandates is diminishing as a big cost concern with hospital executives. Slightly more than 36 percent of hospital executives in 2012 considered it among their biggest concerns, but that dropped to 23.2 percent in the most recent survey.

Labor costs have become a growing endeavor for executives of mid-sized and large systems, as a tight market for employees has apparently required higher pay and more benefits to retain staff. While 2013 was flat in terms of creating new hospital jobs, hiring has resumed again at a brisk pace.

Other recent surveys suggest the healthcare labor market has been tightening in the United States, as an aging population requires more healthcare services, but the high educational barrier from entry is preventing many people from obtaining jobs in the field.

To learn more:
- read the MedCity News article
- check out the Premier survey results