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Health Watch - The High Cost Of Health

POSTED July 20, 2011 2:51 a.m.
In earlier columns, I’ve highlighted some of the positive impacts of healthcare reform legislation for patients and communities. Today, I want to caution about potential cost implications not associated with quality care or access to health care. With legislation as massive and encompassing as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, new regulations, measurement standards and expectations roll in every month. Some are anticipated; some are not.
Of special interest to district hospitals like Oak Valley has been the issuance of new IRS filing requirements.
Contrary to standard procedures where new regulations are proposed with proper notice and comment period, these new rules have been issued without appropriate input from those affected.  Candidly, they are confusing, onerous and redundant. They are out of step with President Obama’s call for “cutting down on the paperwork that saddles businesses with huge administrative costs.”
I won’t bore you with a page by page analysis, but I think it is important for anyone who utilizes hospital services anywhere to understand that unless we can convince IRS officials to revamp these new rules, the added cost to hospitals and their patients will be unnecessarily increased at a time when all of us can least afford it.
Oak Valley Hospital has joined with the California Hospital Association, the American Hospital Association, and dozens of other national and state healthcare associations to appeal this decision.  We have collectively offered revised standards, which meet all requirements of the new legislation without adding significant administrative and financial burdens to already overtaxed healthcare systems.
I repeat that this is not about the quality of care or access to care. It is about how hospitals will be required to report various policies, procedures and programs. Let me use just one example to make the point. Congress included in the legislation its intent to place limitations on charges to patients who qualified or could qualify for financial assistance regardless of the actual cost of treatment. We understand that.
However, we should be permitted to charge a wealthy patient from abroad the full cost of service without the government financial assistance cap. Yet, the new regulations suggest that if we do we would risk losing our tax-exempt status. In reality, if we fail to charge that wealthy patient full cost, it would constitute a private benefit which would definitely jeopardize our tax exempt status!
Hospitals, physicians and all healthcare professionals are prepared to dramatically change the way we do business when the new legislation becomes effective in 2012. And for the most part, we feel positive about how patients will benefit.As your local advocate for affordable, accessible quality health care, it is our responsibility to keep you informed about both the positive and the challenging aspects. I hope to report at some point that our collective efforts have been successful in meeting this latest challenge.
John Friel is the Chief Executive Officer for Oak Valley Hospital. Look for the Health Watch column the third Wednesday of each month in The Oakdale Leader and periodically in The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times.

John Friel is the Chief Executive Officer for Oak Valley Hospital.
Look for the Health Watch column the third Wednesday of each month in The Oakdale Leader and periodically in The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times.

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