FOR-PROFIT CONVERSIONS: STUDY FINDS CARE LEVELS MAINTAINED
The "acquisition of nonprofit hospitals by investor-ownedThis is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.
corporations does not lead uniformly to less uncompensated care,"
according to a study in HEALTH AFFAIRS. Researchers studied
seventeen for-profit hospital acquisitions in California between
1980 and 1992, focusing on California "because of the long
presence of investor-owned hospitals there." They measured the
amount of uncompensated care -- which included charitable care
and bad debt -- provided by the hospital for three years before
and after each acquisition. The study found that on average
hospitals devoted 2.75% of their gross patient revenues to
uncompensated care before acquisition and 2.91% after
acquisition, which was not a statistically significant
difference. The researchers also found no differences in
uncompensated care "for communities either above or below" the
state's poverty level.
UNCOMP-ARABLE: The authors conclude that there is no
"evidence that acquired hospitals provide on average less
uncompensated care than they did before the acquisition."
However, they note that California may not be representative of
"other parts of the country where market forces are less
prominent" and that "uncompensated care is only one indicator of
a hospital's commitment to community service." They also note
that the three-year post-acquisition study period may be too
short to measure the effects of acquisitions because "[i]n some
acquisitions the corporation agrees to maintain uncompensated
care at its existing level for a specified period"
(Young/Desai/Lukas, HEALTH AFFAIRS, January/February 1997 issue).