Reform means desperate times for safety net hospitals

Massachusetts hospitals that treat poor and uninsured patients are facing financial crisis, trying to cut losses while still providing care for the state's poorest residents. Officials with these "safety net" hospitals feel especially snubbed by healthcare reform, as money was given to other reform priorities, reports the Boston Globe.

The state's largest safety net hospitals--Boston Medical Center and Cambridge Health Alliance--need to receive significant federal funding just to break even for the fiscal year ending in nine days, notes WBUR. Boston Medical Center has taken an aggressive approach to get the necessary money, suing state officials for illegally cutting payments for treating poor patients, according to the Globe. BMC also plans to cut 119 jobs to reduce its $166 million deficit.

Cambridge Health Alliance refrained from legal tactics, and instead made greater reductions to its workforce and operations. The hospital group cut 450 jobs, closed six health centers and stopped in-patient addiction treatment. Now Cambridge is looking to merge with a larger healthcare provider, reports the Globe.

Massachusetts officials responded to Cambridge's methods, requesting more Medicaid funds for hospitals that serve poor patients, beginning in the fall of 2011. To receive the funds, hospitals must "undergo an analysis and reconfiguration akin to what Cambridge Health Alliance is going through."

Safety net hospitals also are hoping that Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Donald Berwick, the former President and CEO of the Institute for Health Care Improvement in Cambridge, will rally for additional federal funds, notes WBUR.

For more:
- read the Boston Globe article
- check out this article from WBUR