Bee Analysis Finds Sacramento Hospitals Charge More for Services Than Other Facilities Statewide
Hospital charges for common illnesses and injuries are higher in the Sacramento area than in other metropolitan areas of the state, according to an analysis by the Sacramento Bee. For the analysis, the Bee examined costs incurred by Blue Cross of California, Blue Shield of California, Health Net and PacifiCare "per admission and per day" in Sacramento, San Francisco, San Diego and Los Angeles. The Bee found that on average, the health plans paid more for common hospital procedures administered in Sacramento than the other areas, indicating a higher overall hospital rate. The high costs in Sacramento "defy logic" because the region is "dominated" by managed care organizations and has only not-for-profit hospitals, the Bee reports. Industry experts say that Sacramento is "feeling the pinch" of increased health care costs "more acutely" than other areas in part because of the early successes of managed care in the area. Robert David, a regional vice president for the Hospital Council of Northern and Central California, said, "Sacramento was an early convert to managed care, in part because of the large number of state workers insured by CalPERS, one of the first big purchasers to seize on HMOs as a way to hold down costs." He added, "Now, we're in a catch-up period where hospitals are looking for funds to make the capital investments they have postponed in the past." For their part, hospital officials in Sacramento say that the dominance of Kaiser Permanente hospitals, which treat Kaiser HMO members, shifts uninsured patients to other hospitals, creating losses that get passed on to other patients in the form of higher charges. The Bee analysis found that Kaiser facilities treat fewer uninsured patients than other facilities, but Kaiser officials say other hospitals "have no reason" to blame them for their rates (Rapaport, Sacramento Bee, 11/10).
The Bee published additional stories yesterday and today based on the analysis of hospital billing records and financial documents.
- "Public, Private Records Utilized": The article details how the Bee analysis was conducted (Rapaport, Sacramento Bee, 11/10).
- "Surge in Patients Who Can't Pay": The article reports that while other urban markets have "far more" uninsured patients, hospitals elsewhere lose the same amount of patient revenue to uncompensated care as Sacramento facilities (Rapaport, Sacramento Bee, 11/10).
- "Workers Feel Pinch": The article reports that rising medical costs, combined with the high price of hospital care in Sacramento, are making it difficult for employers to offer health benefits. Firms that do offer coverage are charging workers more for monthly premiums, prescription drugs and hospital visits (Rapaport, Sacramento Bee, 11/11).