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Community hospitals: What happens if they close?

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The Connecticut Post takes a hard look at the challenges facing community hospitals in general and those in Connecticut in particular.

Among the observations:

“Based on more than a year of research, {a} report from the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission suggests community hospitals in that state face something of a downward spiral: Patients are increasingly seeking routine care at large academic medical centers or teaching hospitals, drawn by perceptions of quality or referred by doctors who are now affiliated with the larger hospitals.

“With fewer patients, the community hospitals lose bargaining leverage with insurers when negotiating payment rates. And with fewer patients and lower payment rates, the hospitals struggle to invest in programs, staff, marketing or the infrastructure needed to adapt to the changing health care system.

“’These challenges form a self-reinforcing cycle and make the traditional community hospital business and operating model unsustainable,’ the authors wrote.”

“But if community hospitals close, they added, the consequences for the health care system could be significant. Not only would local access to care be reduced, but overall health care spending would rise. That’s because community hospitals tend to deliver care at lower costs than academic medical centers, which generally have higher cost structures that go along with their advanced capabilities. And if the lower-cost community hospitals closed, more patients would get care at higher-cost facilities, while reduced competition could result in higher prices at the remaining hospitals.”

Bristol  (Conn.) Hospital President and CEO Kurt Barwis said the report is also “a great portrait of what’s happening in Connecticut.”

To read the article,  which includes very useful graphics, please hit this link.

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