San Francisco General Hospital Reports Gap in Service Fees, Reimbursements
There was a $620 million difference in the amount San Francisco General Hospital charged for patient care and the amount it collected in reimbursements in 2004, the city legislative analyst office reported Thursday, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The budget analyst office told the San Francisco Board of Supervisors that payments to the hospital increased by 43% in the past four years, compared to an 83% increase in charges for patient services during the same period.
The report released Thursday is a follow-up of the 2003 budget audit, which showed similar concerns. Since then, San Francisco General has reduced the number of days it takes to collect on patient reimbursements from 122.7 days in 2000 to 63 days in 2004.
In addition, the hospital expects to recover more than $2.1 million in lost collections after consultants helped it identify about $3.9 million in underpayments from managed care programs and the state workers' compensation insurance system over a three-year period.
The Chronicle reports that questions remain whether the overall cost of patient care at the hospital is increasing because of a nationwide increase in health care costs or an increase in admissions. In addition, the Chronicle reports that the hospital's inflation of prices to offset underpayments by state and federal programs makes it difficult to determine if health care costs are "truly growing so exorbitantly."
Analysts said the hospital might not be promptly contesting denials of payment by health insurers or adequately tracking bill payments, in part because of an outdated computer system.
Greg Sass, chief financial officer for the Department of Public Health, said, "It's a dynamic decentralized monster." He said that an up-to-date computer tracking system is being implemented for the hospital, clinics and all other public health facilities and that it will be fully installed by 2008 (Lelchuk, San Francisco Chronicle, 3/4).