Hospital execs sweat the details of healthcare reform

Hospital executives are sweating healthcare reform details as the deadlines for passing the massive legislative effort get closer. Arguably, hospital executives have perhaps the most to lose among providers, as they're in an extremely capital-intensive business which can easily be capsized by changes in reimbursement that might merely inconvenience other care providers.

Healthcare reform could potentially save hospitals big bucks, particularly not-for-profits with a big load of uninsured patients, if lots more citizens get health insurance. On the other hand, there's still lots of ways the legislation could hurt them instead, hospital leaders note, by cutting revenue, increasing or simply failing to slow doctor shortages and more, notes a piece in today's Washington Post.

Perhaps the best positioned hospitals are "safety-net" facilities, which are currently treating large percentages of patients with little or no health insurance. These hospitals expect to take in more revenue if coverage actually gets extended to 95 percent of the U.S. population. However, even that isn't a sure bet, because the "public option" government-run health insurance might pay rates similar to Medicare and therefore, not do much for them financially.

Meanwhile, newly-insured patients might be good for many hospitals, but not good for the doctor supply. The Post notes that in Travis County, TX, one in 10 Medicare patients already has trouble finding a doctor. Execs expect that problem to multiply greatly with the expansion of health plan coverage.

To learn more about health reform's impact on hospitals:
- read this Washington Post piece