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Pity the Poor Hospitals?

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A Historical Look-Back to the Future?

wayne-firebaugh

By Wayne Firebaugh CPA, CFP® CMP™

www.CertifiedMedicalPlanner.org

Dr. Malcolm T. MacEachern, Director of Hospital Activities for the American College of Surgeons, presciently observed that:

… our hospitals are now involved in the worst financial crisis they have ever experienced. It is absolutely necessary to all of us to put our heads together and try to find some solution. If we are to have effective results we must have concerted and coordinated immediate action. … Repeated adjustments of expenses to income have been made. Never before has there been such a careful analysis of hospital accounting and study of financial policies. It is entirely possible for us to inaugurate improvements in business methods which will lead to greater ways and means of financing hospitals in the future. … It is true that all hospitals have already trimmed their sales to better meet the financial conditions of their respective communities. This has been chiefly through economies of administration. There has been more or less universal reduction in personnel and salaries; many economies have been effected. Everything possible has been done to reduce expenditures but this has not been sufficient to bring about immediate relief in the majority of instances. The continuance of the present economic conditions will force hospitals generally to further action. The time has come when this problem must be given even greater thought, both from its community and from its national aspect. [1]

In Agreement

Many health administration and endowment managers would agree that Dr. MacEachern accurately describes today’s healthcare funding environment. Although they might be startled to learn that Dr. MacEachern made these observations in 1932, there is the old truism that there is nothing new under the sun.

Today

More current healthcare statistics after the November 7th 2012 presidential election and Patient Protection-Affordable Care Act confirmation, suggest that the financial crises are much the same for today’s hospitals as they were for hospitals during the Great Depression.  The American Hospital Association (AHA) recently reported a number of gloomy statistics for hospitals: [2]

  • Hospitals provided $39 billion in uncompensated care to patients in 2010 representing 5.8% of their expenses.
  • Technology costs are soaring as traditional technologies such as X-Ray machines, for $175,000, are being replaced by contemporary technologies such as CAT Scanners at $1 million, that are in turn being replaced by CT Functional Imaging with PET Scans costing $2.3 million. Even such a “simple” instrument as a scalpel that costs $20, is being replaced by equipment for electrocautery costing $12,000, that is then being replaced by harmonic scalpels costing $30,000.

More Metrics

A further review added more daunting numbers: [3]

  • In 2010, 22.4% of hospitals reported a negative total margin.
  • From 1997 through 2009, hospitals saw a small net surplus from government payments from sources such as Medicare and Medicaid deteriorate into a deficit approaching $35 billion.
  • Emergency departments in 47% of all hospitals report operating at, or over, capacity partially reflecting an approximate 10% decline in the number of emergency departments since 1991.
  • The average age of hospital plants has increased 22.5% from 8.0 years to 9.8 years in just fifteen years.
  • From 2003 through September 2007, hospital bond downgrades have outpaced hospital bond upgrades by 19%.

In a time when so much seems different yet so much seems the same, hospitals are increasingly viewing their endowments as a source of help. But what is an endowment?

Latin Roots

The same Latin words that give rise to the word “dowry” also give rise to the word endowment.[4] Interestingly, the concepts of a dowry and an endowment are in many ways similar. Both are typically viewed as gifts for continuing support or maintenance.

With respect to the healthcare entity, an endowment is generally used to smooth variations in operating results and to fund extra programs or plant purchases. Any entity that enjoys the support of an endowment also encounters the conflicting objectives between current income and future growth.

Hospital

Assessment

Dean William Inge, a 19th century cleric and author, aptly noted that: “Worry is interest paid on trouble before it is due.”

When managing an endowment, it is important that the institution focus its attention on those items that it can control rather than worrying about those it cannot control. Successful endowment managers seem to agree that there are at least two major areas subject to the endowment’s control: asset allocation (also known as investment policy) and payout policy.

More:

Conclusion

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[1]   MacEachern, M.T., MD. “Some Economic Problems Affecting Hospitals Today and Suggestions for Their Solution.” The Bulletin of the American Hospital Association. July 1932.

[2]   Steinberg, C. Overview of the U.S. Healthcare System.  American Hospital Association (2003). Carline Steinburg is Vice President, Health Trends Analysis, for AHA.

[3]   “Trends Affecting Hospitals and Health Systems.”  TrendWatch Chartbook 2010.  American Hospital Association (2010).

[4]   Merriam-Webster Online.

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Investment Policy Statement Benchmark Construction for Hospital Endowment Fund Management

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Financial Management of Hospitals and Healthcare Organizations

[By Perry D’Alessio CPA]

[By David Edward Marcinko MBA CMP]

###

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###

Introduction

Dr.  Malcolm T. MacEachern, Director of Hospital Activities for the American College of Surgeons, presciently observed that … our hospitals are now involved in the worst financial crisis they have ever   experienced. It is absolutely necessary to all of us to put our heads together and try to find some solution. If we are to have effective results we must have concerted and coordinated immediate action … Repeated adjustments of expenses to income have been made. Never before has there been such a careful analysis of hospital accounting and study of financial policies. It is entirely possible for us to inaugurate improvements in business methods which will lead to greater ways and means of financing   hospitals in the future … It is true that all hospitals have already trimmed their sales to better meet the financial conditions of their respective communities. This has been chiefly through economies of administration. There has been more or less universal reduction in personnel   and salaries; many economies have been effected. Everything possible has been done to reduce expenditures but this has not been sufficient to bring about immediate relief in the majority of instances. The continuance of the present economic conditions will force hospitals generally to further action. The time has come when this problem must be given even greater thought, both from its community and from its national aspect. [1]

Many health administration and endowment managers would agree that Dr. MacEachern accurately describes today’s healthcare funding environment. Although they might be startled to learn that Dr. MacEachern made these observations in 1932, there is the old truism that there is nothing new under the sun.

Current healthcare statistics after the November 7th, 2012 presidential election and Patient Protection-Affordable Care Act confirmation, suggest that the financial crises are much the same for today’s hospitals as they were for hospitals during the Great Depression.

The AHA

The American Hospital Association (AHA) recently reported a number of gloomy statistics for hospitals: [2]

  • Hospitals provided $39 billion in uncompensated   care to patients in 2010 representing 5.8% of their expenses.
  • Technology costs are soaring as traditional technologies such as X-Ray machines, for   $175,000, are being replaced by contemporary technologies such as CAT Scanners at $1 million, that are in turn being replaced by CT Functional Imaging with PET Scans costing $2.3 million. Even such a “simple” instrument as a scalpel that costs $20, is being replaced by equipment for electrocautery costing $12,000, that is then being replaced by harmonic   scalpels costing $30,000.

Daunting Numbers

A further review added more daunting numbers:[3]

  • In 2010, 22.4% of hospitals reported a negative total margin.
  • From 1997 through 2009, hospitals saw a small net surplus from government payments from sources such as Medicare and Medicaid deteriorate into a deficit approaching $35 billion.
  • Emergency departments in 47% of all hospitals report operating at, or over, capacity partially reflecting an approximate 10% decline in the number of emergency departments since 1991.
  • The average age of hospital plants has increased 22.5% from 8.0 years to 9.8 years in just fifteen years.
  • From 2003 through September 2007, hospital bond downgrades have outpaced hospital bond upgrades by 19%.

In a time when so much seems different yet so much seems the same, hospitals are increasingly viewing their endowments as a source of help. But what is an endowment? The same Latin words that give rise to the word “dowry” also give rise to the word endowment [4].

Interestingly, the concepts of a dowry and an endowment are in many ways similar. Both are typically viewed as gifts for continuing support or maintenance. With respect to the healthcare entity, an endowment is generally used to smooth variations in operating results and to fund extra programs or  plant purchases. Any entity that enjoys the support of an endowment also encounters the conflicting objectives between current income and future growth.

Assessment

Dean William Inge, a 19th century cleric and author, aptly noted that: “Worry is interest paid on trouble before it is due.”

When managing an endowment, it is important that the institution focus its attention on those items that it can control rather than worrying about those it cannot control. Successful endowment managers seem to agree that there are at least two major areas   subject to the endowment’s control: asset allocation (also known as investment policy) and payout policy.

###


Notes:

[1]   MacEachern, M.T., MD. “Some Economic Problems Affecting Hospitals Today and Suggestions for Their Solution.” The Bulletin of the American Hospital Association. July 1932.

[2]   Steinberg, C. Overview of the U.S. Healthcare System.  American Hospital Association (2003). Carline Steinburg is Vice President, Health Trends Analysis, for AHA.

[3]   “Trends Affecting Hospitals and Health Systems.”  TrendWatch Chartbook 2010.  American Hospital Association (2010).

[4]   Merriam-Webster Online.

Conclusion

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Physicians Seeking Financial Support from Hospitals

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Results of a New Survey

[By Staff Reporters]

Since domestic economic conditions began to deteriorate in September 2008, the number of doctors seeking financial support from hospitals has increased, according to a new report from the American Hospital Association. 

Study Results

  • Overall: 70%
  • Physicians Seeking Increased Pay for On-Call or other Services Provided to Hospital: 79%
  • Physicians Seeking Hospital Employment: 74%
  • Physicians Seeking to Sell Their Practice: 36%
  • Physicians Seeking to Partner on Equipment Purchases: 26%
  • Other: 13%

Source: American Hospital Association. The Economic Crisis: Ongoing Monitoring of Impact on Hospitals: Results from an AHA Rapid Response Survey, August/September 2009. www.aha.org

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Conclusion

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This Time the Hospital Financial Crisis is Different

Oh Really … No so Fast!

Submitted by J. Wayne Firebaugh, Jr; CPA, CFP®, CMP™ho-journal2

Dr. Malcolm T. MacEachern, Director of Hospital Activities for the American College of Surgeons, presciently observed that:

… Our hospitals are now involved in the worst financial crisis they have ever experienced. It is absolutely necessary to all of us to put our heads together and try to find some solution. If we are to have effective results we must have concerted and coordinated immediate action. … Repeated adjustments of expenses to income have been made. Never before has there been such a careful analysis of hospital accounting and study of financial policies. It is entirely possible for us to inaugurate improvements in business methods which will lead to greater ways and means of financing hospitals in the future … It is true that all hospitals have already trimmed their sales to better meet the financial conditions of their respective communities. This has been chiefly through economies of administration. There has been more or less universal reduction in personnel and salaries; many economies have been affected. Everything possible has been done to reduce expenditures but this has not been sufficient to bring about immediate relief in the majority of instances. The continuance of the present economic conditions will force hospitals generally to further action. The time has come when this problem must be given even greater thought, both from its community and from its national aspect…

Source:  Steinberg, C. Overview of the US Healthcare System; American Hospital Association 2003.

Many hospital CXOs, healthcare administrators and physician executives would agree that Dr. MacEachern accurately describes today’s healthcare funding environment. However, they might be startled to learn that Dr. MacEachern made these observations in 1932! There is the old truism that there is nothing new under the sun.

American Hospital Association Statistics

Healthcare statistics suggested that the financial crisis is much the same today as it was for hospitals during the Great Depression. The American Hospital Association’s (AHA) reported gloomy statistics for hospitals include:

  • In 2001, 29% of hospitals had negative total margins.
  • Approximately $101.3 billion of uncompensated care was provided between 1997 and 2001 with an average annual increase of 16% during that time period.
  • Emergency departments in 62% of all hospitals report operating at, or over, capacity.
  • Technology costs are soaring as traditional technologies such as X-Ray machines, for $175,000, are being replaced by contemporary technologies such as CAT Scanners at $1 million that are in turn being replaced by CT Functional Imaging with PET Scans costing $2.3 million. Even such a “simple” instrument as a scalpel that costs $20, is being replaced by equipment for electrocautery costing $12,000, that is then being replaced by harmonic scalpels costing $30,000.
  • Between 2000 and 2002, 33% of hospitals reported increases in liability premiums of more than 100%.
  • The average age of hospital plants has increased 21% from 7.9 years to 9.6 years in just one decade.
  • In the four years ending 2002, hospital bond downgrades have outpaced hospital bond upgrades by almost 5 to 1.

Editor’s Assessment

As editor’s of the premium subscription, two volume, 1,200 pages, institutional print-guide Healthcare Organizations [Financial Management Strategies], we prefer engaged readers and contributors like Mr. Firebaugh, who demand and create compelling content like the above. Please review these links for same.

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Domestic Economy Sickens Hospitals

AHA Reports Negative Financial-Operating News

Staff Reporters

Many hospitals are seeing the effects of the economic downturn. More than 30% of respondents to a recent American Hospital Association [AHA] survey reported a significant decline in patients seeking elective care and 40% reporting a drop in admissions overall. The majority of hospitals also noted an increase in patients unable to pay for care.

DATABANK Results

The report is based on survey results from 736 hospitals and information from DATABANK, a Web-based reporting system used in 30 states to track key hospital trends:  

  • Falling profit margins to [-] 1.6% – from [+] 6.1% year-over-year
  • Medicare and Medicaid patient care is growing
  • Reducing administrative costs (60%), staff (53%) and services (27%)
  • Borrowing for facility and technology improvements has decreased

Capital investments are also being postponed or delayed:

  • 56% delayed plans to increase capacity;
  • 45% delayed purchase of clinical technology or equipment; and
  • 39% delayed investments in new information technology.

Assessment

The report was based on data from two major sources. A survey, “The Economic Crisis: Impact on Hospitals,” provides data from 736 hospitals from late October 2008 through Nov. 10, 2008.  DATABANK figures represent early results from 557 hospitals reporting data for July through September 2007 and 2008 as of Nov. 11, 2008.

Conclusion

And so, your thoughts and comments on this Executive-Post are appreciated. How [much] has the economy affected your healthcare organization?

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