Uninsured, Technology Complicate Hospital Finances, Editorial Says
With five of Sonoma County's hospitals posting a net loss in 2002 and over half of California's hospitals reporting losses, the United States needs to reconsider the cost of the uninsured and of new technologies, a Santa Rosa Press Democrat editorial says. "[U]nless hospitals can find a balance between revenues and expenses, they will begin closing their doors," and while some of the problems "may be resolved by market forces," other problems "may require a fundamental change in the way we think about health care," the editorial contends. "Low-income people shouldn't be afraid to go to the hospital for true emergencies," but it is "not fair to ask hospitals to cover all the costs of treatment," and private insurance premiums should not be raised to cover the cost of the uninsured, the Press Democrat maintains, adding, "A more rational system would be one in which government pays the catastrophic care bills for people with little or no means." The editorial continues, "More fundamentally, doctors, patients and families need to have frank discussions about the downsides of technology" because if people "understood that the difference in quality of life [that new and expensive technologies can make] would be incremental, would they feel the same way?" The Press Democrat concludes, "In essence, this is the same question society must ask of its hospitals: At what cost to the health care system comes new technology? Can we afford it? Can we not?" (Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 6/24).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.