Tuesday, October 16, 2012

$7.5 billion. My sympathies.

A recent story in the Boston Globe discusses the difficulties faced by Partners Healthcare System in managing its $7.5 billion in assets.  It offers a description of the problems faced by the CFO and others in managing "the tail that wags the dog," assets whose rise or fall in value can swamp the operating income of this corporation.  I feel their pain, but this story has no context.

What would it take to have the editors include a correlation with their Spotlight Series published several years ago about the immense market power of this business?  As I noted in yesterday's post, those headlines and the ones that followed are indicative of the dominance of this system and its impact of health care costs:  A healthcare system out of balance; Healthcare giant takes aim at the suburbs; A force behind rising healthcare costs; Partners' deal with Blue Cross under scrutiny by AG"s office; State panel to examine payments to Partners.  The stories show the earlier willingness of the state's largest newspaper to take on this issue.

All of that has now faded away.  Here's some perspective.  The $7.5 billion in assets held by Partners is larger than the following universities in this city, combined: Boston College, Boston University, Northeastern University, Tufts University, and Wellesley College.  It is more than ten times larger that of the Museum of Fine Arts and 80 times larger than that of the Museum of Science. 

I don't have a summary of investment assets of the other hospitals in the state, but a reasonable estimate is that the Partners' number exceeds all the others' put together. Without denying the business acumen of the PHS folks, it is reasonable to assume that this accumulation of wealth derives more from the excessive payment rates the system has received over the years more than from investment decisions and philanthropy.  As I have said before, we can't blame Partners for executing a brilliant business and political strategy, but it would be reassuring if someone in the media felt a responsibility to report on these matters in a manner that reminded the public and body politic of the behemoth that has been created in their midst and the consequences of that market dominance.

1 comment:

e-Patient Dave said...

Look, people just don't understand how hard it is to have all these assets. Such a burden! Maybe a tax credit is in order.