Healthy Profits Prompt Hospital Chain To Return $6 Billion

In news about the health care industry, HCA Healthcare returns federal funds, California’s attorney general seeks antitrust oversight of Sutter and Atrium and Wake Forest Health to merge.

Houston Chronicle:
HCA Healthcare Will Return $6B In Federal Relief Funds As Profits Expected To Stay Steady 

HCA Healthcare will return approximately $6 billion in federal provider relief funds and Medicare advance payments, the company said Thursday, as earnings are expected to remain steady in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. While hospitals nationwide reported dips in patient visits and revenues early in the pandemic, those numbers have since bounced back as patients returned for elective procedures and check-ups. (Wu, 10/9)

Modern Healthcare:
Sutter And Calif. AG Revamp Their Search For Antitrust Monitor

Sutter Health, California’s Attorney General and several health plans are headed back to the drawing board in their search for a watchdog to oversee the health system’s compliance with the terms of its antitrust settlement. Not-for-profit Sutter and the plaintiffs, which also include UFCW & Employers Benefit Trust, will submit a new formal plan for selecting a monitor by Oct. 15, with a hearing Oct. 19 on the proposed plan. After that, the selection process is expected to take 3 months. (Bannow, 10/9)

North Carolina Health News:
Atrium To Combine With Wake Forest Health, Med School 

On the heels of a flurry of mergers, acquisitions and shifts in North Carolina’s health care environment in recent months, two large systems have announced Friday their intent to more closely affiliate. The Charlotte-based Atrium Health has agreed to form a new “enterprise,” Atrium Health Inc. with the Winston-Salem based Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and its medical school. (Engel-Smith and Hoban, 10/12)

The Wall Street Journal:
Companies Face Uncertain Health Costs As Employees Defer Treatments 

People are deferring many routine medical treatments during the coronavirus pandemic, creating unexpected savings for some employers, while making it harder for companies to forecast health-benefit costs in the year ahead. As U.S. companies prepare to open their enrollment periods for health-care plans, many are uncertain about how much medical care their employees will consume in the year ahead. Health benefits typically account for a large portion of a company’s personnel costs. (Broughton, 10/11)

COVID-19 Coverage Safety Net Has Plenty Of Holes In US

COVID-19 can do more than torment patients physically. It also clobbers some financially. Even though many insurers and the U.S. government have offered to pick up or waive costs tied to the virus, holes remain for big bills to slip through and surprise patients. People who weren’t able to get a test showing they had the virus and those who receive care outside their insurance network are particularly vulnerable. Who provides the coverage and how hard a patient fights to lower a bill also can matter. (Murphy, 10/11)

Single-Payer, Single-Provider Health Care For All Americans? 

Unlike the vast majority of Americans who get sick, President Trump is reaping the benefits of single-payer, single-provider health care. He doesn’t have to deal with networks, deductibles, or co-pays at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. The president will not face the familiar onslaught of paperwork, the confusing “explanations of benefit,” or the ongoing bills that distract so many Americans as they attempt to recuperate from their illnesses. (Givan, 10/10)

In telehealth news —

Crain’s New York Business:
Substance-Use Disorders Among Top Telehealth Diagnoses In Northeastern U.S.

Substance-use disorders in July emerged as one of the top five telehealth diagnoses in the Northeast, ranking fifth, according to new data from Midtown-based nonprofit Fair Health. The finding is the first time the diagnosis breached the top five this year, Fair Health noted. It’s consistent with an increase in substance-use disorders that has been noted during the pandemic by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other agencies as well as a trend toward using telehealth to treat a wider variety of conditions. (Henderson, 10/11)

Modern Healthcare:
Health Systems Seek Out Patient Feedback To Improve Telehealth Platform

As Jefferson Health in Philadelphia saw its telehealth platform volumes skyrocket during the first few months of COVID-19, technical glitches started occurring. In mid-March, complaints from providers and patients about technical problems kept cropping up. They cited video and audio issues as visits using Jefferson’s virtual platform rose by up to fiftyfold. (Castellucci, 10/10)

In other health industry developments —

Billings Gazette:
Health Professionals To Gianforte: ‘Set An Example For All Montanans’ With COVID-19 

A group of roughly 100 health professionals has sent an open letter to Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte chiding him over various actions regarding COVID-19 precautions. In response, Gianforte’s campaign said the letter was an attempt to politicize public health. The letter was sent Friday to Lee Montana Newspapers and included 111 names of nurses, doctors, caregivers and public health professionals. (Tollefson, 10/11)

Nurse Who Has Seen ‘Hundreds Of People Suffocating To Death’ Moved To Tears After Trump Downplayed Coronavirus 

One nurse has a message for President Donald Trump: The coronavirus pandemic is still something people should care about. Cristina Hops, who works on the frontlines helping patients fighting coronavirus, said she was upset after reading the President’s tweet on Monday, in which he told Americans “don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life.” “When I read that and I got home, I was just so angry about it that I felt like I needed to say something,” Hops, who is based in Seattle, Washington, told CNN. (Smith, 10/8)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.

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