Becker's Hospital Review

January 2021 Issue of Becker's Hospital Review

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Page 13 of 47

14 CFO / FINANCE 'COVID' fee showing up on medical bills across the country By Alia Paavola H ealthcare providers across the U.S. are adding "COVID" fees to patient bills to deal with their financial difficulties linked to the pandemic, according to The New York Times. This fee has been tacked on to patient bills to help providers offset pandem- ic expenses ranging from acquiring protective gear for staff to sanitizing equipment more often. The Times found in November that the fees are most prevalent in dental offices and assisted living facilities. Dental offices have lost billions due to the suspension of non-urgent dental care, and assisted living facilities have been forced to admit fewer residents to prevent the spread of the disease. But the charges may also be coming to more physician offices, according to the Times. In October 2020, the American Medical Association lob- bied CMS to reimburse a billing code that covers increased protective gear costs. To better understand the COVID fee, the Times analyzed several patient bills. In one instance, Michael Hambley's 87-year-old mother received a bill from her assisted living facility with a one-time $900 fee for masks, cleaning supplies and meal delivery. Another bill for Jennifer Koeckhoven's mother had a $60 personal protective equipment charge added to it, which was not covered by insurance. In a third instance, Carrie McGurk re- ceived a $15 charge tacked on to her dental cleaning bill. She said she was not informed of the fee in advance and only saw it after asking for an itemized bill. "When I was putting it away in my file, I saw 'COVID charge,' and thought, 'Jeez, you could have at least told me,'" Ms. McGurk told the Times. n Sanford, Intermountain halt merger talks By Molly Gamble S anford Health has indefinitely suspended discussions about a planned merger with Salt Lake City-based Intermountain Healthcare because of the abrupt exit of Sanford's longtime president and CEO, Kelby Krabbenhoft. Sioux Falls, S.D.-based Sanford issued a statement Nov. 24 that the system's board of trustees and Mr. Krabbenhoft "mutually agreed to part ways." The develop- ment followed 24 years of Mr. Krabbenhoft's leadership in the top position of the 46-hospital system and days after he wrote an email to 50,000 employees detailing his rationale for not wearing a face covering. Sanford's board appointed Bill Gassen as the system's new president and CEO. Mr. Gassen was previously chief administrative officer. He has been with Sanford since 2012. Sanford and Intermountain announced in October they had signed a letter of intent to merge, with completion of the deal expected in 2021. The combina- tion would have created a $15 billion, 70-hospital system. Marc Harrison, MD, president and CEO of Intermountain, was set to serve as president and CEO of the new system, while Mr. Krabbenhoft was set to serve as president emeritus. In its statement issued Dec. 4, Sanford said it will pause merger and acquisition activity while it addresses other organizational needs. "We are disappointed but understand the recent leadership change at Sanford Health has influenced their priorities," said Dr. Harrison in the statement. "There's much to admire about the work that Sanford Health is doing. We continue to share a strong vision for the future of healthcare." n Trinity seeks OK for Chicago outpatient center where it's closing hospital By Alia Paavola L ivonia, Mich.-based Trinity Health is seeking approval to build an outpatient center in a South Side Chicago neighborhood where it plans to close its 170-year-old inpatient hospital in 2021. In July 2020, Trinity Health announced plans to close Mercy Hospital & Medical Center in Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood between Feb. 1 and May 31, pending approval from state regulators. Mercy Hospital said it can no longer sustain monthly operating losses of $4 mil- lion and that the aging facility needed more than $100 million in capital upgrades. In response to concerns about care lapses resulting from closing the hospital, Trinity filed a certificate of need application with the state for permission to open Mercy Care Center. e outpatient center would offer urgent care, diagnostic testing and care coordination ser- vices, Trinity said. e facility, slated to open Sept. 30, 2021, would be about 2 miles away from Mercy Hospital. "Mercy has a long history in Chicago of providing compassionate care to those in need," said Mike Slubowski, president and CEO of Trinity Health. "While the way in which patients re- ceive that care might change over the years, our mission to serve the most vulnerable among us remains the same." Northwestern Medicine, a 10-hospital system in Chicago, announced plans in September to build an outpatient care center in Bronzeville. e ambulatory center would be 75,000 square feet and house an urgent care center, primary care clinic and specialty care services. n

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