Healthcare is about profits, not patients

QUICK READ: The nation’s largest for-profit hospital chains saw higher profits, and some more than tripled their net income compared to last year. Some are also increasing their profit margins by forcing out healthcare staff who have seniority and earn more. As bigger corporations acquire smaller hospitals, this trend is accelerating.

Maria has been an ER nurse in Southern California for almost 22 years. Because of her seniority, she is a top earner and gets six weeks vacation. During the pandemic, she has often worked double shifts because of a staff shortage, but that has not stopped her employer from trying to force her from her job. “Every day, I wonder if I’m going to call into my manager’s office and offered a package because I earn so much,” she told me.

Other hospital chains are forcing out staff pharmacists with years of experience and replacing them with new grads who won’t earn as much. As corporations consolidate their grip on hospitals acrid the country, they are looking for ways to increase profitability. One of the best ways is to cut costs which means letting experienced healthcare workers go.

The Times recently reported that “UnitedHealthcare, one of the nation’s largest health insurers, is being sued in two states by a large group of anesthesiologists who are accusing the company of stifling competition by forcing the doctors out of its network and by using its enormous clout to pressure hospitals and surgeons to stop referring patients to them”.

Business Insider examined the profits of hospitals. They said “medical claims and revenues noticeably declined among hospitals during the height of the pandemic, which has benefited health insurers. But that didn’t prevent hospitals from making a lot of money, a large chunk of which was directly subsidized by taxpayers in the form of bailout funds.

HCA’s second-quarter profit was roughly $1.1 billion, a 38% increase from the same period a year ago.

  • HCA has received $1.4 billion in coronavirus bailout funds to date, of which $822 million was recognized in the second quarter. After taking out taxes, HCA recorded $590 million in taxpayer bailouts in the quarter — representing 55% of its profit.

It’s important to remember that smaller hospitals were losing money while big hospital chains were making money because of federal funds allocation. Still, older healthcare employees who are at the top of the earnings schedule are being forced out. In some states, staff pharmacists are being let go and asked to come back as “temps” without benefits. Pharmacy schools are turning out thousands of pharmacists who earn a lot less than pharmacists who have to work at hospitals for years.

It’s happening in pharma as well. Fierce Pharma reported “Former rep Randy Dossat said in his suit he was 55 years old when a new manager moved in. The manager repeatedly called him “old school,” the lawsuit alleges, commented on his “tenure” at the company, and suggested he didn’t fit the “new environment.” When Dossat complained, Roche higher-ups didn’t conduct a thorough investigation, his lawsuit claims. Then, he was retaliated against for his complaints, the suit says.

Apparently the Las Vegas jury agreed: It awarded $168,000 in lost pay and $1.7 million in damages for pain and suffering. “This verdict sends a clear message to employers that they should not retaliate against employees for complaining about discrimination in the workplace,” Dossat’s attorneys said in a statement.

Healthcare in the US has become a big business with big profits. Some employees talk about how proud they are that their company has developed a vaccine for COVID-19. Still, as recent stories have reported, they are planning to charge for follow-up booster shots which they are positioning as necessary even though we don’t have long-term data yet.

The huge profits available in American healthcare are too big an incentive for corporations and Wall Street. Changes are imminent.