“COVID-19 patients may be very expensive to treat and may or may not have private insurance. At the same time, canceling profitable procedures presents a ‘double whammy.'”
March 16, 2020
Modern Healthcare – COVID-19 could be a double whammy for hospitals’ finances in that they’re putting off high-margin surgeries to treat expensive, complex coronavirus patients with no way to predict reimbursement.
Chip Kahn, CEO of the Federation of American Hospitals, said of the novel coronavirus’ financial impact on hospitals:
“It probably will be significant in most cases. In some situations, if we’re taking about two or three months of this … you could see many hospitals with their backs to the wall.”
Prominent hospitals like New York-Presbyterian and Brigham and Women’s in Boston as well as massive health systems like Northwell Health have said they are canceling or postponing elective procedures in the coming weeks.
It may be necessary in many cases to prevent a more deadly COVID-19 outbreak, but could shrink an important revenue source for providers.
Treating COVID-19 patients is expensive and unpredictable in terms of the resources required, said Kahn, whose organization represents for-profit hospital companies.
He questioned whether hospitals will see adequate reimbursement from treating those patients, as some may be homeless, unable to self-isolate or uninsured.
He questioned whether hospitals’ Medicare payments would offset the cost of providing treatment.
The procedure cancellations align with the U.S. surgeon general’s recommendation that hospitals stop performing elective procedures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus and preserve capacity in hospital intensive-care units as well as equipment and staff.
The American Hospital Association, FAH and other groups are asking the surgeon general to clarify his directive to account for the fact that some so-called elective procedures can’t be delayed, such as cancer surgeries.
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