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There is a very real danger that many American hospital systems will be forced into bankruptcy by the loss of income from elective surgeries and a rush of virus-infected critical care patients. The risk is great and the answer is legislation to introduce some form of universal insurance.

2020-04-03

(sars-cov-2 budding from apoptotic cells, electron micrograph from NIAID via Medscape.com)

This pandemic could destroy many American hospitals with two simultaneous hits to their income: First, cancellation of all elective surgeries, upon which they depend for steady revenues; Second, a crush of sick people infected with the novel coronavirus.

Already, hospital administrators are warning that they have lost needed revenue because all elective surgeries have been postponed indefinitely.  These non-emergent surgeries are usually paid for by insurance plans and provide a steady revenue stream to hospital systems.  For the last two weeks, such surgeries have been stopped, and they will not resume for many months due to shortages of necessary materials even after the wave of infected patients subsides.

At the same time, critically ill patients, many of whom have no insurance (especially those with multiple co-morbidities who were unemployed and fell through the Medicaid “safety net”, are about to flood every hospital in the country.  This rush of uncompensated care will be poisonous to hospital’s bottom lines.

Some money has been provided in Congress’ third emergency pandemic legislation, but it will not be nearly enough.

Two things have to happen to save our American hospitals:  a large infusion of cash and universal health insurance.  Let’s see if the Democrats and Republicans can get together to solve this problem.

“A black pool opened up at my feet.  I dived in.  It had no bottom.”  (Raymond Chandler)

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