Los Angeles Times Looks at Backlash Over Hospital Closings in California
The Los Angeles Times today examines community pressure "building" against large hospital chains as they "amas[s] market power and rais[e] their rates" by acquiring small community hospitals. With health care costs expected to increase more than 12% this year, half of that coming from hospital spending, consumers are generating a "firestorm" against giant hospital chains. The Times looks at Tenet Healthcare Corp.'s recent purchase and attempted closure of Daniel Freeman Marina Hospital in Marina Del Ray, which has angered the community. Local residents, labor unions, government officials and consumer groups launched a campaign to stop the closure, including lobbying politicians and collecting petitions from residents. This month, a Superior Court judge ruled that Tenet cannot close the hospital and will have to begin admitting elective patients. Yet as Tenet's profit, revenue and stock prices have "surged," the company "make[s] no apologies" about its purchase and closure of smaller hospitals. Harry Anderson, a Tenet spokesperson, said, "The problem is that smaller community hospitals are losing out in markets where you have major competitors that are larger, have more doctors, better equipment, and more services." According to Michael Cowie, assistant director in charge of enforcement for the FTC, hospital mergers are getting a closer look from federal regulators to determine whether they have been "good for patients." Community protests have "prove[n] costly" for large hospital chains such as Tenet. In addition to large legal fees and hospital restaffing expenses, Tenet's "public image and its relationship with the state attorney general's office probably will make future acquisitions tougher," the Times reports (Lee, Los Angeles Times, 8/22).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.