The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Covid Relief Enriches Big Hospitals:
No Relief for Covid Patients

May 24, 2021

Big hospital chains received 178 billion dollars through the Provider Relief Fund that was part of the Covid stimulus package. They have used this money to gobble up smaller, less financially powerful hospitals.

This consolidation process means they keep what is profitable and get rid of what is not. This leads to fewer hospitals and fewer beds. And all this during a pandemic where hospital space has been at a premium and is absolutely necessary.

CommonSpirit Health, one of the biggest hospital networks with about 140 hospitals in 21 states, received well over a billion dollars in federal aid to counter any financial losses caused by the shutdowns of lucrative elective surgeries and higher COVID-related costs. In January, one of its divisions merged with Virginia Mason health system in Seattle. It also picked a small hospital network in Arizona and helped start a company to analyze patient data across 40 states.

Many of these big chains that received the federal grants are in better shape than they were before the pandemic. In fact, many are sitting on billions of dollars.

And none of this aid was used to prevent hospital closings.

And at the same time, this consolidation or “growth” has brought price gouging. Big chains normally charge the highest prices, like twice what Medicare pays for the same procedure, according to RAND. CommonSpirit is among the most expensive hospital systems, with rates sometimes three times Medicare’s rates.

When the hospitals accepted the federal bailout funds, Congress supposedly barred them from “balance-billing”—the practice of seeking additional payment beyond what the insurer has paid. But, in reality, people have been saddled with ridiculously enormous bills that are impossible to pay.

Multiple bills show that some hospitals are clearly not complying with the ban on balance billing and some are incorrectly coding visits, meaning the special coronavirus protections that insurers put in place are not applied. Others are going after the debts of patients who died from the virus, pursuing estates that would otherwise go to family members.

Once again the big corporations, big hospital chains get bailed out when they absolutely don’t need it AND they use the money to enrich themselves and screw everyone else. Meanwhile, the actual victims of Covid are left twisting in the wind with bills they can never pay.