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Old 12-28-2008   #1
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Are hospitals next in line for a bailout?

Businesses that can qualify for a bailout include hospitals which directly benefit from claiming losses as the article below describes. Stories like these were precursors of what's been happening with banks and the auto industry these past few months. When they become less useful under the current name and management, they are bought, or buy and merge under a new name and sometimes new management. Some are deliberately run at a loss and into the ground, such as National Health Laboratories (there is an interesting business history!) or NationsBank.

I'm not exactly surprised hospitals are claiming losses as they currently are, rather it seems so insultingly obvious that they're scrambling not to miss the money train while the Fed is bailing out financial institutions and auto businesses.

What it means for consumers is while they struggle to pay medical bills, a lot of those bills are already being paid by the Fed and now it looks like they're heading for a bailout as well.

It's also difficult to ignore the opportunity for government to make steps toward socializing medicine. While socializing medicine doesn't have to be a bad thing, none of it's looking good at the moment and it's hard to tell when optimal health treatment and preventative strategies might become a reality.

A look at hospital troubles across the country

The Associated Press
Saturday, December 27, 2008

Hospitals around the country are struggling to stay afloat amid the recession, although many have had financial problems for years, often blamed on Medicare, Medicaid and other government health programs that don't fully cover the costs of care for millions of patients.

Some recent developments:
_In mid-December, the prestigious Cleveland Clinic started a hiring and salary freeze across the 33,000-worker health system; it also restricted travel and use of consultants and contractors.

_In New Jersey, five of the 79 acute care hospitals in business at the start of 2008 have closed, most recently Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center, and a sixth may close soon. In early December, the state health department said it would dole out $44 million to six others to keep them from closing or slashing services.

_Other recent hospital closures include the 617-bed Physicians Medical Center Carraway in Birmingham, Ala.; Century City Doctors Hospital in Los Angeles, and Lincoln Park Hospital, in an upscale Chicago neighborhood.
_The Healthcare Association of Hawaii in November reported hospitals there posted their eighth straight year of losses and said the situation will worsen. The two-hospital Hawaii Medical Center filed for bankruptcy, several hospitals have laid off large numbers of workers and the Hawaii Health Systems network of about a dozen public hospitals needed a $13 million advance in late August to avoid shutting down.

_Numerous hospitals have filed for bankruptcy, including Charlotte, N.C.-based Hospital Partners of America, which operates four hospitals; Michael Reese Medical Center in Chicago and Associated Healthcare Systems Inc., which has four rural hospitals in the South; and North Oakland Medical Centers in Pontiac, Mich.

_Many hospitals are laying off workers, trimming the hours of part-timers and reducing use of more-expensive temporary nurses hired through agencies. Among them are the four-hospital St. Vincent's Health System in Alabama; Boston Medical Center, which primarily serves immigrants and poor people, and the Columbia St. Mary's system, which has four hospitals in Milwaukee and Mequon, Wis.

_Nashville-based HCA Inc., the nation's No. 1 private hospital chain with about 160 hospitals, is cutting about 110 jobs and closing most functions — even the emergency department — at its Portland, Tenn., hospital, and laying off roughly 100 headquarters staffers.

_ For-profit Tenet Healthcare Corp., which operates 56 hospitals in 12 states, has seen patient volumes dip, missed Wall Street expectations in the third quarter and warned it may not make its financial targets next year. Its shares have been hammered, plunging from $6.55 in early September to $1.10 by Christmas.

_Some hospitals have been posting multimillion-dollar losses or had credit rating agencies put their bonds on credit watch or downgrade their ratings. Some investor-owned hospital companies have seen share prices plummet, missed Wall Street forecasts or lowered their own financial performance predictions. Along with trimming expenses and delaying capital projects, some are discussing mergers or selling medical office buildings to raise cash.
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Religion and science coexist when neither tries to be the other. ~~ me

"If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need." ~~ Cicero

"Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food." ~~ Hippocrates

"Trust, but verify." ~~ Damon Runyon * Said to me by Andy Stephenson of Hacking Democracy, in memory of and one account. Miss you much, Andy.

Last edited by my.dragons.lady; 12-28-2008 at 07:36 PM. Reason: edit added: "optimal" for contextual clarity
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