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It is our belief that another action is necessary and we have proposed that action in our prepared testimony and propose it now. What we are suggesting is that this committee consider a freeze on hospital capital construction, on capital construction in this entire field-that includes nursing homes, governmental hospitals, and doctors offices, for not only equipment and facilities but across the board for 24 months.
That the committee also consider a freeze on full-time equivalents per patient day which would, in effect, have a dampening effect upon the rise of the intensity of services in the hospital field.
Several other proposals are a part of this package which we have made. We stated in our testimony that we ask that this freeze be applied for 24 months. The purpose of, the limitation that the freeze would end at the end of 24 months, is to use that period of time to consider real long-term and radical reform of the entire system, including the possibility of building in meaningful free enterprise incentives into the structure of payment, not into the structure of "reimbursement," a term which, in itself, characterizes certain philosophical concepts that perhaps are outmoded.
I think that the bill that you are considering today is one of the alternative methods of reforming the system. We would like to see it go. much further than it does. We would be happy to provide technical amendments and changes and to work with the subcommittee and its staff, but it is our feeling at present that it is time to not only call a halt to what is going on, but to do so in such a manner that gets the issues out on the table-that is, to determine whether in fact the American public wants a growth system in this field; whether the American public wants a no-growth system.
The hospitals, I believe, have been unfairly accused of fostering unlimited and unrestrained growth. It may well be that that is precisely what the American public desires and that the trustees and other members of hospital boards and members of the hospital management and leadership are doing precisely what the country wants, or that may not be so. Let's see!
If the country wants a very modified or no-growth industry, it is my view that the hospital trustees and administrators could provide that service as well, without any new or increased intensity or increased services.
In short, Mr. Chairman, what we ask is a consideration of a very tough concept of going beyond the reasonable cost reimbursement system that was put in place 10 years ago for medicare and medicaid, and really looking at what other possibilities there are.
In that regard, I would like to make one or two statements with respect to the testimony that the Secretary of HEW made yesterday. I believe for the record there should be a couple of comments made with respect to his so-called fat list which unfortunately, because of the term, tends to excite media interest, which the actual facts do not justify. The $1 billon profits which the Secretary characterized, involves the entire hospital industry; not as the Secretary implied, solely to nonprofit community hospitals, whom I represent; I think the Secretary's discussion of profit deserves response.
In the first place, generating a cash surplus is a traditional way of raising capital in this field. It has been used traditionally and the hospital boards have a tendency, in many instances, to practice pay as you go plans, despite the availability of easy loans capital over the past 10 years in this field.
I think, it is not imprudent to have accumulated these kinds of surpluses, it is eminently prudent to have done so.
I think the characterization of surpluses of $1 billion in the community hospital field and $250 billion pay-out of this $1 billion in the profitmaking field amply puts the situation into perspective. One is not unreasonable, compared to the other.
It seems to me to cut out this surplus, to get your savings, as the administration suggests, out of this kind of money, is likely to convert community hospitals into welfare hospitals.
It seems to me that the Secretary already has sufficient problems with welfare reform without moving the hospitals into that category. Secondly, questions of unnecessary therapy, unnecessary surgery. unnecessary hospitalization has been stated again and again by the Secretary in testimony and in the media. This is a very serious charge. If, in fact, there is this much, an awful lot of patients ought to be suing doctors, not hospitals, because hospitals do not admit them and do not order the therapy and should not be blamed. I do not believe that there are facts to support these charges.
It is very difficult, obviously, to prove this type of thing. I just do not believe that 100,000 patients are in hospitals at this very minute unnecessarily, as the Secretary states. Hospitals do not order therapy, do not give therapy. I think it is unfortunate to state that hospitals somehow force physicians to raise hospital charges by this kind of unnecessary practice.
It will come as a very grave shock to the dedicated trustees in 3,000 community hospitals around this country to know that what the Secretary charges is a widespread practice. I do not believe it is.
I think that the same is true of hospital's wasting energy. If ever there is a place that businessmen on hospital boards would attempt to save money, this is an area where they would move as rapidly as
ybo else including HEW. I question whether the savings are as easy, as facile as the Secretary states.
Senator TALMADGE. How many hospitals does your organization represent, Mr. Horty?
Mr. HORTY. Fifty hospitals scattered in 21 States, all of them community hospitals one of them a very fine institution in the State of Georgia, Memorial Medical Center in Savannah.
Senator TALMADGE. It is very fine.
Your freeze on employment is an interesting one in view of your criticism of the administration's 9-percent cap as being inequitable. Mr. HORTY. Yes.
Senator TALMADGE. Would not a freeze on employment also be inequitable inasmuch as the efficiently staffed hospitals would go along with the inefficiently staffed hospitals?
Mr. HORTY. No. Our membership which-I should expand somewhat on what I said-includes hospitals that range from 700 beds
such as the hospital in New Orleans down to very small hospitals. In fact, our membership has been chosen for this kind of a range.
We have consulted with each one of them. The freeze that we propose, is not a freeze on employment per se. It is a freeze on something that the technicians and comptrollers tell me is full-time equivalents per patient day.
That would mean, if utilization goes up, the full-time equivalents goes down, if the patient days go down, the full-time equivalents will go down.
The purpose of this is not a flat freeze. It is a restraint on increase and as such we believe it rightly places the burden upon the individual hospital, upon its management without mandating the wrong kind of decisionmaking.
It is not, for example, we make no bones-it does not prevent you from replacing a $3 full-time equivalent with a $10 an hour full-time equivalent. We believe the management of hospitals in this country is not likely to run wild in that kind of an environment because they have not up to the present. Hospital wages have not climbed over the past decade, or 20 years, in such a way as to indicate that hospital management or boards of trustees will take the easy way out on the business operations of their hospitals.
I do not believe that would happen under such a freeze. There is no attempt to freeze actual employment and we would be opposed to doing so.
Senator TALMADGE. Do you think Memorial Hospital would be agreeable to a 2-year freeze on employment?
Mr. HORTY. As expressed in the testimony, they would and have
Senator TALMADGE. Thank you.
Senator DOLE. I do not think that is going to happen. Based on that, what would you support?
Mr. HORTY. I support our proposal and we believe it may be enacted. Senator DOLE. If it does not, you are not supporting anything? Mr. HORTY. At this point in time we are not for anything else for the simple reason that we believe at some point something radical is going to have to be done, and if something is not done at the present time (or halfway measures that only move in the direction of reform) we are likely to face worse problems next year.
At some point, something radical has to be done. In that sense, we do agree with the administration-but we do not agree with the approach which they have taken, it moves in the wrong direction.
Senator DOLE. How many beds do you represent?
Mr. HORTY. Close to 25,000. I might say one more statement in that regard.
We have received, since our testimony in the House on this exact matter, considerable support from individual hospitals around the country who have written to me personally endorsing the conceptnot always in all of its detail. Everyone has quarrels or qualms with certain things. Some endorse it entirely; some endorse with certain exceptions.
But I think that there has been interest and support outside of our membership for the idea that perhaps this is the time to stop the "growth" machinery look at the entire concept.
Senator DOLE. I am not critical. I think it is probably good.
Mr. HORTY. Maybe now is the correct time to look at the situation. Maybe we do not have any more time, and maybe it is time to look at total reform.
Senator DOLE. I think you have raised a good idea. Certainly you have made a good statement. You have supported your point of view. I do not know who else supports it. I am just trying to find out. Mr. HORTY. Most ideas start out with very little support.
Senator DOLE. I learned that.
Senator TALMADGE. Thank you very much, gentlemen, for your testimony.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Horty follows:]
STATEMENT OF JOHN F. HORTY, PRESIDENT OF THE NATIONAL COUNCIL OF COMMUNITY HOSPITALS
1. The National Council of Community Hospitals ("NCCH") welcomes S. 1470 as a constructive effort to face some of the major problems of Medicare-Medicaid reimbursement and as a stimulus to a national debate on how hospitals should be reimbursed under those programs.
2. NCCH, however, opposes enactment of S. 1470 at this time. The most pressing problem is the need to restrain increases in the costs of health care. This should be done immediately. The Administration's bill (S. 1391), however, is inequitable and unconscionably complex. It would add yet another layer of regulatory control. It could well be self-perpetuating and become the control system of the future. This would be chaotic and destructive of the health care delivery system. S. 1470 does not provide immediate cost containment and even in the long run does not attack the fundamental causes for cost increases. NCCH has proposed a program that would effectively attack increases in health care costs immediately and would do so without a complex program or cumbersome bureacracy. NCCH has proposed that there be a freeze for 24 months on any increases in hospitals' labor intensity and a freeze for 24 months on new capital expenditures related to providing health care.
3. NCCH's proposal would be temporary. It would also force consideration by the American public of long-range structural reforms in the health care delivery system. S. 1470 represents one possible avenue of reform, but NCCH believes it does not address the structural changes that are necessary. NCCH believes that long-range reform will go far beyond adjustments to the reasonable cost reimbursement system, upon which S. 1470 focuses.
4. S. 1470 is inconsistent with the fundamental changes NCCH and others believe are necessary in at least three respects:
(a) S. 1470 is premised on the classification and homogenization of hospitals, while true reform should be built on and encourage diversity.
(b) S. 1470 would add another layer of bureaucracy and Governmental regulation, but fundamental reform should entail the introduction into the health care delivery system of financial incentives, competition, and other measures in place of Governmental regulation (other than quality assurance).
(c) S. 1470 would encourage hospital-based physicians not to enter into arrangements with hospitals but to bill their patients on a fee for service basis. Long range reform will require various arrangements by which physicians are tied more closely to the institution rather than being encouraged to be independent of it. But S. 1470 will remove from hospitals what little leverage they have to negotiate such arrangements with physicians.
My name is John F. Horty. I am President of the National Council of Community Hospitals, an organization composed of not-for-profit, community hospitals located in 21 States throughout the United States. Our members include some of the best known hospitals in the country. They represent a variety of sizes and types; all are dedicated to providing quality patient care to their communities with the maximum of efficiency. All are deeply dissatisfied with the organization of the current health care delivery system and with the government regulation of it, and all are committed to developing and implementing fundamental reforms of that system. I greatly appreciate, therefore, the opportunity to present the views of NCCH on S. 1470.
NCCH submitted a statement on S. 3205 to this Committee during the last Congress. In that statement, we commended Senator Talmadge and the other sponsors of the Bill for facing some of the most vexatious problems that have arisen in the administration of Medicare and Medicaid programs. We urged that S. 3205 play an important role in provoking a national debate on how hospitals should be reimbursed for the care they provide the beneficiaries of Federal health programs.
We renew those thoughts this year. The sponsors of S. 1470 and their staffs are to be congratulated for tackling some of the hard issues of reimbursement and doing so in a spirit of cooperation with and concern for the health care community--providers and patients alike. However, while we support some of the technical innovations of the bill, we must oppose its enactment at this time. We do not believe this is the proper time to consider S. 1470. We are concerned that concentration of S. 1470 will distract attention from the problems that need immediate action, and may dissipate efforts to develop truly fundamental reforms in the health care delivery system.
The most pressing and immediate need is to restrain increases in the costs of health care. S. 1470 is not an immediately effective cost containment measure. Beyond cost containment, there is wide-spread agreement that structural changes in the health care delivery system must be instituted. S. 1470 provokes debate on the form these reforms should take, but does not envision the fundamental standard changes NCCH believes are necessary and may, I am afraid, only make the task of structural reform more difficult.
The Administration has proposed a cost containment bill and promised a report on fundamental reforms by March 1, 1978. NCCH opposes S. 1391. That bill is inequitable and inordinately complex. It would, in addition, launch a bureaucracy and introduce a mind set that would, we fear, exert considerable pressure to continue the cost containment program beyond the "temporary" duration assumed by the Administration. It might well shelve indefinitely consideration of S. 1470 and other long-range reform measures. Perpe ion of the Administration's cost containment program would be chaotic, and destroy hospitals' financial viability. Even worse, S. 1391 is inconsistent with long-range reforms, and is an obstacle to developing structural changes. It impedes the likelihood that S. 1470 or any other reform measure will be enacted.
NCCH recognizes and endorses the need for immediate cost control measures; at the same time, we believe structural reform is so important it should not be subordinated to a cost containment program that could well become a permanent control system. Nor should cost containment impose another layer of complex, unworkable, and ill-advised regulations on hospitals. NCCH has, therefore, proposed a truly temporary and simple cost containment program that would save approximately the same amount of money as the Administration claims for its program, and would not impede development of true structural reform. At the same time, NCCH's proposal would place hospital boards, management, and medical staff leadership in charge of cost containment and would not replace community management with Governmental bureaucracy. NCCH has suggested that for twenty-four months there be :
1. A freeze on hospitals' labor intensity-the number of FTE's per patient day would be maintained at the current level.
2. A freeze on new capital expenditures by all providers (including physicians).
This freeze would be simple to administer, and it would be effective, resulting in savings in health care expenditure of at least $1,600,000,000 in the first year By the terms of the statute we propose and by the practical realities of such a