State keeps tabs on hospital costs, use

Catching up on hospital news:  

1)     AG fires back at Partners on costs. From the Globe

Last week, Thomas O’Brien, chief of Coakley’s health care division, wrote Partners general counsel Brent Henry, calling portions of the (Partners cost report) erroneous and saying in other respects it essentially agreed with his office’s findings. The attorney general’s report was ”a more thorough reflection of the health care market,” he wrote.

2)    The Globe also reports on how patients are gaming the state’s insurance system.

The number of people who appear to be gaming the state’s health insurance system by purchasing coverage only when they are sick quadrupled from 2006 to 2008, according to a long-awaited report released (pdf) yesterday from the Massachusetts Division of Insurance.

3)    The state Department of Health issued a report this week on inpatient admissions and emergency department trends. Click here for the .pdf or here for the main DPH reports page.

Two points of interest

Most patients chose hospitals located in the same region where they live, however, one-third of patients residing in the Northeast and Southeast went to metro Boston area hospitals for inpatient care.

This supports the notion that many patients bypass less expensive community hospitals in favor of expensive teaching hospitals.

 Emergency department visits increased between 1.5% and 2.4% each year between FY04 and FY08. Several national and local studies indicate that the volume of ED visits are not necessarily expected to decrease as insurance coverage expands. This is due in large part to the fact that the uninsured do not account for a larger share of preventable or avoidable ED visits than the insured and that reliance on the ED may be due to outpatient capacity constraints, which may be exacerbated by increased insurance coverage.

This counters the notion that health care costs will go down because the uninsured are using the ED for primary care.

4) But, take note of this story from the Worcester paper, which relates to both findings:

While Massachusetts has more pediatric sub-specialists per capita than many other states, the doctors are in short supply, even at big institutions like UMass.

Finally, check out my post on Nature Network Boston about the confounding results of a survey on the best academic insitutions for researcher. Not the absence of many Boston biggies.

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