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HOSPITALS: Sutter and Kaiser getting pissy, and fiddling while Rome burns

Just to follow up on the recent "SEIU hates Sutter but loves Kaiser" piece, this morning I was up at CPMC as a patient, having a doctor looking at my bum knee in the medical office building next door. (And no, I didn’t cross a picket line as the doctor I was seeing was in a medical group that’s not owned by Sutter, at least I think it’s not and it wasn’t being picketed). The pickets were out in force with a SEIU RV parked outside.

Meanwhile, on the issue of giving free care to the uninsured (or not, as the case seems to be) Sutter is now pointing out that it thinks it gives lots of charity care because it "writes off" some $40m a year in discounts that it gives Medicaid and Medicare off its charges. After you pick yourself up from rolling on the floor laughing about that one, there is the slightly more serious issue that they raise which is that everyone else does it (or actually, doesn’t do it). "Everyone else", in this case, of course means Kaiser.

This is an old and perhaps even valid meme, in that Len Schaeffer brought it up years ago when he noted that Kaiser gives very little charity care at its hospitals, which he too converted into the concept that Blue Cross was paying for the "extra" charity care delivered at non-Kaiser hospitals, because of some mystic cross-subsidy from the care that Kaiser wasn’t giving.

So what’s the solution?  Well of course it’s to form a committee, provided that Blue Shield’s Foundation comes up with $75,000 to pay the committee. Yup that’ll solve the uninsurance problem overnight.

However, if I was in Sutter’s position, I might just be trying to get my head a little lower out of the firing range and not just using the "Officer, everyone else was speeding too" excuse.

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  1. I’d sure like to submit my Sutter complaint somewhere. The hospital approved me for full coverage under it’s charity care program, but then later a collections agency came after me for Physician’s fees. There was no regular billing or opportunity to negotiate a payment plan. When I tried to call the Physician’s Group, I got a call center rep who wouldn’t put me through to anyone: she was only empowered to refer me to the collections agency. This problem has never been resolved: it’s sitting there on my credit record, along with a new similar problem from Highland Hospital. In both cases the hospitals didn’t offer any means to communicate about the problem. How can there be any charity care if the hospitals have set things up so they don’t even have to deal with the patient’s situation? They just use collections agencies for regular billing, and collections agencies do not bring anything like patient’s rights or eligibility for charity care into consideration.

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