People putting off surgery whenever possible

Here's more evidence, if you needed any, that people are putting off needed medical procedures because they feel they can't afford them. This week it's The Boston Globe detailing some of what patients are suffering through in an effort to avoid costly co-pays and deductibles.

Fifty-nine percent of hospitals statewide reported a drop in elective surgeries in 2008 and into the beginning of fiscal 2009. And that's largely due to patients like Judi Campbell, observers say. Campbell, whose hip has been more or less destroyed by degenerative arthritis, is putting off hip replacement surgery, however, as she already owes $1,000 to an area hospital. That, and she's afraid her job isn't secure.

As FierceHealthcare readers know, this isn't just hard on the patients--it's hard on the hospitals too. With fewer high-paying surgical procedures being performed, hospital income has fallen, and when compounded by the state of the economy, things are rough all over for facilities. Profit margins at Massachusetts hospitals have dropped from an average of .7 percent in the last quarter of 2008 to .3 percent in the first quarter of this year, according to the Massachusetts Hospital Association.

Falling profits, in turn, have led to staffing cuts at area hospitals. For example, officials at Caritas Christi Health Care, said in December it would lay off 160 employees (out of a total of 12,000) to cut costs.

To learn more about Boston-area hospitals' struggle:
- read this piece from The Boston Globe