Why Your Hospital Costs Are Going Up

There’s little doubt hospital reimbursement methodology is going to change dramatically over the next few years.

We’re going to see a shift from fee for service to global episodic reimbursement, a shift that has already begun. I’ll get into that next week, but for now, there’s increasing evidence that private payers’ hospital costs are rising in large part due to several recent changes in reimbursement policies.

Over the last year, there have been three major changes in hospital reimbursement: the implementation of MS-DRGs (increase in the number of DRGs to better account for patient severity); a 4.8% cut in Medicare hospital reimbursement spread over three years; and the decision by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to stop paying for ‘never ever’ events – conditions that are egregious medical errors requiring medical treatment.

The net result of these changes has been a drop in governmental payments to hospitals, the decision by several major commercial payers to not pay for never-evers, and increased cost-shifting from hospitals to private payers.

The implementation of MS DRGs and the accompanying decrease in reimbursement looks to be the most significant of the changes, and is already having a dramatic impact on hospital behavior patterns. By adding more DRG codes, CMS is acknowledging there are different levels of patient acuity – that performing a quadruple bypass on an otherwise-healthy patient takes fewer resources than doing the same operation on an obese patient with diabetes and hypertension. While these different levels were somewhat factored in to the ‘old’ DRG methodology, the new MS-DRGs better tie actual costs to reimbursement. (for a more detailed discussion, see here)

CMS projected that these changes would reduce Medicare’s total reimbursement for cardiovascular surgery by about $620 million, while orthopedic surgeries are projected to see an increase in reimbursement of almost $600 million.

Orthopedic reimbursement is increasing because there are now more MS DRGs for orthopedic surgery, and the additional DRGs will likely mean hospitals will be able to get paid more in 2009 and beyond than they were last year.

Hospitals are going to work very hard to get more orthopedic patients in their ORs, and they are going to carefully examine these patients to make sure they uncover every complication and comorbidity – because a ‘sicker’ patient equals higher reimbursement.

Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt sent to us by email this morning. We do not know the author or what publication this appeared in.