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CPBJ Extra Blog

Real time this is not

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New analysis from Moody's says expenses at nonprofit hospitals and health systems are growing faster than revenues for the second straight year.

I mention it because A.) Knowledge is Power, and B.) seeing that reminded me of how much I hate the time lag on nonprofit financials. The report, you see, is based on preliminary medians for fiscal year 2013, and many hospitals begin their fiscal year on July 1. When I search for hospital 990s, in other words, the most recent result I can typically find covers the year ending June 30, 2012.

That was a long time ago, particularly in today’s health care environment. And given that hospitals are by general report not doing as well now as they used to be, even looking at their most recently reported financials may very well not give us a great representation of what things are like now.

I’m not thrilled with for-profit hospital financials either, though we typically see quarterly reports from them. That’s because they’re on the megacompanies as a whole, with no data on the individual hospitals. To be sure, the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council’s reports do help mightily in filling the gaps, but I’m not about to let that fact get in the way of a good grumble.

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About that abrupt delay on ICD-10: “CMS is examining the implications of the ICD-10 provision and will provide guidance to providers and stakeholders soon.” What do you think “soon” means in this context?

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Want a provocative quotation? I have one for you:

“Providers and pharmaceuticals are essentially taking advantage of the American public.”

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Capital BlueCross and Highmark Inc. have kept me busy writing stories about grandmothered plans lately, and I don’t want to leave the subject without sharing an interesting tidbit. I haven’t seen it verified elsewhere, but according to this article, Pennsylvania is one of just nine states that have allowed a three-year extension of existing health insurance coverage.

Speaking of Capital BlueCross, it launched an accountable care arrangement with Holy Spirit Health System that was not announced at that time. So now you know: It exists!

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I recently got an invitation to the opening of a new mobile Mission of Mercy clinic at St. Francis of Assisi’s Catholic School at 1459 Zarker St., Harrisburg. Mission of Mercy is a nonprofit that receives no government funding but has nonetheless been offering free health care, dental care and prescription medications in Harrisburg and Dauphin County since 2002.

I wasn’t able to attend the ribbon-cutting, but I was intrigued by this part of the invitation:

“Our ‘Campaign for Care’ is designed to raise awareness and close a $130,000 shortfall in funding. Although we have about 25 volunteers and just a part-time medical director and nursing director to serve the entire Pennsylvania/Maryland footprint, it still costs $180,000 a year to fund the two clinic days a month in Harrisburg.”

A $130,000 shortfall on a $180,000 cost? Being a good reporter, I asked for more details. Spokeswoman Diane DeMarco answered that there were several reasons for the shortfall.

“First, like many nonprofit organizations, Mission of Mercy was hard hit by the great recession, and we’re still rebuilding,” she said. “But also the recession forced us to look carefully at each of the programs in the cities/counties we serve, and to evaluate which communities were supporting us and which were not. It turned out that giving in Harrisburg/Dauphin County was far below what it needs to be to support our twice monthly mobile medical clinic. Additionally, we have had a very low profile in Harrisburg, so many people don’t know that we exist, or aren’t aware of the life-giving services we provide -– all free.”

Interesting, eh?

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