LAC+USC Medical Center and its Chief Medical Officer Brad Spellberg, M.D. were featured in a Frontline episode on PBS on May 18. The episode is called, “The Healthcare Divide”. The documentary shines a light on the inequities between private and safety net hospitals. It takes a look at how these inequities played out during the pandemic with for-profit hospitals in wealthier suburbs earning high profits at a time when safety net hospitals faced a surge in very ill patients and decreased revenue.
The complementary NPR article, “Hospitals Serving the Poor Struggled During COVID. Private Hospitals Made Millions,” quotes Dr. Spellberg who says:
“Our costs went way up and revenue went down,” says Brad Spellberg, chief medical officer at LAC-USC. “Unlike a private hospital, we don’t make money from our . Medicaid and Medicare do not reimburse at a level where if you say, if we do more things, I’m going to make more money.”
The documentary interviews several experts who discuss the complexities of hospital funding and the growing number of hospitals that are owned and operated by for-profit corporations. The subject matter experts note that safety net hospitals take care of the most vulnerable patients who, during the pandemic, worked as “essential workers” and often lacked health insurance or relied on Medicaid, which pays substantially less than Medicare and private insurance. The complex funding models meant that despite seeing more patients, the safety net hospitals experienced funding deficits while the wealthier hospitals earned enormous profits.
The full PBS episode of Frontline can be accessed here: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/the-healthcare-divide/
The joint PBS/NPR article referenced above can be accessed here: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/safety-net-hospitals-struggled-covid-wealthy-hospitals-millions-profits/
This article includes a link to audio: https://www.npr.org/2021/05/18/996207511/hospitals-serving-the-poor-struggled-during-covid-wealthy-hospitals-made-million