Thursday, September 20, 2001

Area health leader decries low payments


Quality of patient care threatened, he says

By Tim Bonfield
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Greater Cincinnati risks losing the high-quality medical care its citizens have come to expect if hospital reimbursement rates continue to stay below national averages, the chief executive of the Tristate's biggest health-care system said Wednesday night.

        Ken Hanover, chief executive of the Health Alliance of Greater Cincinnati, issued a report to the community Wednesday in the first of three town meetings scheduled in coming weeks to discuss the health of the Health Alliance.

        Similar town meetings will be at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 1 at Fort Hamilton Hospital, 630 Eaton Ave., and at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 9, at St. Luke Hospital East at 85 N. Grand Ave. in Fort Thomas.

        Mr. Hanover said the key problems facing the Health Alliance, as well as most community hospitals, are national shortages of nurses, pharmacists and radiation technologists; the increasing burden of indigent care; and low reimbursement for hospitals in this area.

        Cincinnati hospitals get paid about 92 percent of the U.S. average, one of the lowest rates in the nation, Mr. Hanover said. By comparison, Cleveland hospitals get paid about 122 percent of U.S. average.

        “In essence, the employers and insurers in this marketplace have been getting a relatively good deal. I don't feel that's sustainable in the long run,” Mr. Hanover said.

        The Health Alliance of Greater Cincinnati includes the University, Christ, Jewish, St. Luke and Fort Hamilton hospitals, and a large physician group called Alliance Primary Care.

        The alliance, which lost a combined $88 million in fiscal 1998 and 1999, has climbed back to report a $2 million gain in fiscal 2001, which ended June 30.

        The Nov. 6 election in Hamilton County will be vital to the Health Alliance, he said, when voters decide an indigent care levy. University Hospital depends on the tax levy for about $34 million a year — about half the costs of the indigent care services it provides.

       



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