Policy-ish

Morning Rounds: Boutique Hospitals And Health Insurers

With President Obama expected to jump into the congressional health care debate this week with both feet, journalists are pressing harder to discern likely winners and losers with each proposed plan.

Time Magazine says one likely loser, in whatever bill emerges: Boutique, for-profit hospitals owned by doctors. These hospitals typically lack an emergency room or other community clinics, focusing instead on highly lucrative specialties like orthopedics and cardiology. The physician owners say their hospitals provide top-notch care, but critics say they are understaffed and drive full-service community hospitals out of business by skimming the highest paying patients

Time says there are now about 220 such hospitals nationwide — a doubling since 2001 — with another 80 under development. The current leading House and Senate bills under consideration would ban further construction.

Meanwhile, Bill Moyers this weekend talked to a former insurance company exec who recently quit over what he says are his industry's attempts to sabotage health care reform, despite all the talk about making nice.

(Read why he says he quit, after the jump)

Wendell Potter, who worked in public relations for CIGNA until last year, says he still respects his colleagues there, but decided to speak out when he saw "the industry resorting to the same tactics they've used over the years and particularly back in the early '90s when they were leading the effort to kill the Clinton plan."

But it wasn't just the industry spin that bugged him. Potter told Moyers (and a Senate subcommittee last month) that he was especially troubled in recent years by the industry's shift to selling more high-deductible insurance plans to employers, the so-called "consumer driven plans." He says,

They're really plans that have very high deductibles, meaning that they're shifting a lot of the cost of healthcare from employers and insurers, insurance companies to individuals. And a lot of people can't even afford to make their co-payments when they go get care, as a result of this.

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