Ascension, other hospitals cut jobs amid fiscal pressures and ACA uncertainty

Executive looking out window
The layoffs total about 2.3% of Ascension’s Michigan workforce of about 26,000. (Getty/Tom Merton)

Despite just closing a merger with Presence Health that made it the largest Catholic healthcare system in the U.S., Ascension Health is now trying to get a little smaller.

St. Louis-based Ascension has laid off about 500 employees at its 14 hospitals in Michigan, The Detroit News reported. The layoffs included both executive and clinical staff, such as nurses. And, according to the newspaper, more layoffs are planned. The reductions total about 2.3% of Ascension’s Michigan workforce of about 26,000.

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The layoffs are part of the financial pressure that hospitals and healthcare systems are facing, particularly as the GOP-led government has been dismantling parts of the Affordable Care Act. That includes repealing the individual mandate, which could cut the number of insured Americans by a significant amount when it goes into effect next year. Lawmakers in Michigan and other states where the GOP runs statehouses have also been submitting waivers to impose work requirements on Medicaid enrollees. Some patients, even those with insurance, have struggled to pay their bills, driving up levels of uncompensated care.

The Covered California health insurance exchange projected in a recently released study that premiums could rise in some states by as much as 94% by 2021, likely leading to even more uninsured in the coming years.  

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And the job cutbacks are not confined to Michigan. St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center in Pueblo, Colorado, cut 34% of its staff, or 272 employees, to remain viable, according to The Denver Post. 

In New York City, NYC Health and Hospitals Corp. plans to slash 35 jobs, mostly in its administrative offices, the New York Post reported. The layoffs are expected to lead to $4.5 million in savings.

Late last year, Tenet Healthcare announced a plan to cut 1,300 jobs to save $150 million a year by the end of 2018. The cuts represent about 1% of Tenet’s total workforce. In January, Intermountain Healthcare announced plans to offload 2,300 revenue cycle management-related jobs to R1 RCM by the end of 2018.