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Fixin' Healthcare

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The Lifestyle Chronicles - Goliath and Davids

The proposal to reduce Medicare spending by $35.89 billion over the next five years would reduce hospital payments more than $8 billion and nursing home payments more than $5 billion. Get ready for a vigorous lobbying campaign. Contrary to the methods and styles of lobbying in Washington, most of this will be done at the homes of the lawmakers where hospitals occupy center stage with lots of employees.

Meanwhile, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan believes that not-for-profit hospitals in her state do not give enough service to the needy in return for the financial privilege of being tax-exempt. She has proposed the Tax-Exempt Hospital Responsibilty Act that would require hospitals provide free care to uninsured patients whose family income is no more than 150 percent of the federal poverty limit ($9,570 for a single person and $19,350 for a family of four). Deep price cuts would be given on a sliding scale for uninsured patients with incomes between 150 and 250 percent of the poverty limit. Hospitals would be required to provide charity care equal to at least 8 percent of the operating costs during a fiscal year. Not-for-profit rural and government hospitals would be exempt.

Attorney General Madigan also plans the Fair Hospital Billing & Collection Practices Act to address the common complaints about hospital billing. Complaints range from confusing charges to aggressive collection tactics by hospitals and the collection agencies they use. Looks like some chickens are coming home to roost. Also, sounds like a job for boards of trustees that are responsible to the community.

On another front hospitals are being called to task for the unhealthy food they serve. This would include the fast food franchises that operate within hospitals. Turns out the charge is being led by the America's medical students. The American Medical Student Association has launched the Healthy Foods in Hospitals Campaign. Leave it to the younger crowd to focus upon the basics.

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