For-profit, higher-margin hospitals at advantage when it comes to CARES funding

Dive Brief:

  • Hospitals that tend to have a higher mix of private payer revenue are likely to receive more novel coronavirus federal grant money compared to hospitals that rely on government payers such as Medicare and Medicaid, a new analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation found.
  • The study aims to analyze the implications of tying the latest round of $50 billion in federal bailout money to providers’ net patient service revenue. It examined hospital financial data and used the HHS’ grant formula to determine the amount of grant money hospitals were likely to receive.
  • KFF found that hospitals with the highest share of private insurance revenue, or those in the top 10%, received $44,321 per hospital bed, or more than double the hospitals in the bottom 10%.

Dive Insight:

This latest analysis reveals some hospitals may be at a disadvantage when it comes to receiving federal funding that is meant to serve as a lifeline for them during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The study found that hospitals with the highest share of private insurance revenue — and those set to receive more in bailout money — were less likely to be teaching hospitals and more likely to be for-profit. Also, they were more likely to have higher operating margins and provided less uncompensated care as a share of operating expenses.

In short, KFF explains that the funding package is skewed toward hospitals with higher revenue from private payers.

“These hospitals’ large share of private reimbursement may be due either to having more patients with private insurance or charging relatively high rates to private insurers or a combination of those two factors. All things being equal, hospitals with more market power can command higher reimbursement rates from private insurers and therefore received a larger share of the grant funds under the formula HHS used,” according to the analysis.

The study points out that a community health center that sees a small portion of patients with private pay would receive less funding than a private physician office that sees the same total number of patients but treats more with private pay.

“With HHS expected to release additional relief fund grants and Congress considering additional stimulus, this analysis demonstrates that the formula used to distribute funding has significant consequences for how funding is allocated among providers,” according to KFF.

Hospitals have been battered by the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. They’ve halted elective procedures and routine care in an effort to preserve needed medical supplies and in an attempt to snuff out the spreading virus.

That has caused hospital volumes and revenues to plummet as care is deferred, so the federal government has sent financial aid in response as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

This latest round of funding was designed to be a more targeted approach than the initial wave. The first $30 billion released was distributed based on a facility’s share of Medicare fee-for-service. That put facilities with a small slice of Medicare fee-for service business, such as children’s hospitals, at a disadvantage. However, the first round was one way to get money out the door quickly, which officials have acknowledged, knowing a more targeted approach would follow.

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