Vail Kozatch: When will hospitals’ heavy profits benefit patient costs?
January 29, 2019
In recent Colorado Sun and New York Times articles, reporters highlighted that hospital mergers increase patient costs. Can we expect to see the same with the buy-out of the Yampa Valley Medical Center by UCHealth, or can we expect something different?
In 2016, UCHealth profited over $400 million through their hospital charges. Will those profits ever trickle down to patient cost reductions or will they continue to fund things like television advertising campaigns?
Currently, the hospital has postponed its plans to build an orthopedic and spine surgery center, also known as a hospital outpatient department. However, research tells us that ambulatory surgical centers have superior services and charge patients substantially less than hospital outpatient departments, which make charges with "inpatient codes," and are much more expensive than the actual outpatient codes.
UCHealth has an opportunity to not have that happen in the Yampa Valley by building partnerships with local physicians/surgeons and building an ambulatory surgical center that would benefit all of Routt County. I encourage the hospital to do a community impact study on its building project and make that study available to the entire community. They can think of big questions like:
• What will be best for all patients?
• How can we reduce patient costs to avoid people going out of town for treatment?
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• How can our profits help reduce patient costs?
• How can we support a community hospital model instead of an impersonal corporate model?
It would be wonderful if the UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center Board of Directors took the necessary time to do the study and see this as an opportunity for true community partnership for health and well being. Instead, the hospital donated $1 million to the Old Town Hot Springs capital campaign. It's a kind gesture, but this only benefits those with paid memberships or one-time visitors, not everyone.
Right now, our local insurance costs and medical bills are among the highest in the state and the United States. No wonder so many postpone their care until they can afford out-of-pocket costs or drive to other cities to get treatment.
We deserve better; we deserve to have a hospital that has the best interests of its patients at heart when making these impactful decisions. It's not clear that UCHealth has any interest in lowering patient costs, even though they have the power to do so.