As health care tabs rise, every American feels the impact – on personal finances, company budgets, state coffers and federal entitlement programs. Rising demands for services from an aging population, medical advances, and quality imperatives all impact health care costs. Within this context, it is important to understand how various sectors of our health care system price services and account for costs.
Across the country, hospitals are both a critical part of the U.S. health care safety net and a powerful economic engine. How does Medicare payment to hospitals compare to Medicaid payment? How may the changes contemplated in budget reconciliation for Medicaid affect the out-of-pocket obligations of Medicaid recipients when they require hospital care? Will hospital charges have any impact on these Medicaid recipients with new out-of-pocket obligations, and how do those charges now impact individuals with private insurance and the uninsured? Should there be greater transparency regarding hospital costs and charges? Looking ahead, what does the trend in opening specialty hospitals mean for hospital spending, costs, payments and charges? Is there any clear relationship between what hospitals are paid for services and quality of care?
These and other questions were addressed at a January 24, 2006 briefing sponsored by the Alliance for Health Reform and the respected journal Health Affairs. The session featured four leaders in the hospital sector: Chip Kahn, president of the Federation of American Hospitals; Caroline Steinberg, American Hospital Association vice president; Uwe Reinhardt, senior economist at Princeton University; and Mark Miller, MedPac executive director. The Alliance’s Ed Howard and Health Affairs’ John Iglehart moderated.
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